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I am increasingly struck with the crude worship of intellect and culture which prevails in our body. It must appear very strange to 'outsiders,' especially considering how little wool there is to all this cry. "These Independents, I could fancy them saying, make so much splutter about talent and education in the ministry, that you might reasonably expect they would have something more to show for it in their pulpits. Not all my dissympathy with the vulgarian, who thinks spirituality and syntax cannot go together, can prevent my siding, if I must take sides at all, with those who cry out for more men of God, rather than more men of books, as teachers and evangelists.
What we want more than talent is, I think, intelligence; that clear-sightedness which springs from sincerity of soul. Things are very simple if we bring an open mind to them. One of my people to-day quoted Tennyson to me as a Christian poet, and seemed to have missed the pantheism of In Memoriam. When, after showing him what the poem really is, I wound up by quoting the first line of the last verse
• That God which ever lives and moves 'he actually referred to the use of the (now) neuter relative in the Lord's Prayer, Our Father which art in heaven,' as being a parallel case. After I had got him to confess that the which'in In Memoriam was not only obviously exceptional and deliberate, but was to be read in the light of the rest of the poem, he said, quoting a remark attributed to Carlyle, and which he had heard, he said, from Mr. George Dawson, • Well! Pantheism or Pottheism, what matters ?' I explained that at least distinct perceptions were desirable, and the calling of things by right names; but my friend seemed to think haziness of brain rather good than otherwise, and was quite impatient of being asked for accu
racy of description. I have met many young men like him; and of all the crude admirers of crude pulpit talent, these are the crudest. If this friend can be kept off intellectual ballooning, and dallying with half-disguised ideas, from which he might strip the veil if he chose, I have great hopes of him, for he has independence and warmth of character, and, I think, real disinterestedness. Would not the care of a class in the school be a good discipline for him?
I wish I could get all my people to think less of me as an officer, and to enter into frank and natural intercourse with me without reflecting about it. I shall try if I cannot make a cordial life among these brethren and sisters, a life lived upon the common level, supply the place of a good deal of study; or rather do more, and work results which no study could work. I see somewhere in the country a clergyman has been jumping in a sack with his parishioners, by way of showing brotherly love. Happy establishment, which (being secure of its revenues) can afford the contrast between the surplice and the sack! But I fancy some of my immediate brethren make the same sort of mistake as this clergyman,—that of trying to get up brotherly love, or, at least, a genial familiarity, by an occasional dodge. It will not work. Nothing will work but the thing that is. As for being secure of revenues—I wonder whether, if the minister were to mingle more freely with his people, his salary would be grudged, or seem as if it were grudged to him?
It is the doctor's bill and the lawyer's bill which are paid with the worst grace, is it not? Let me try hard to seem to my flock less of a functionary, whose work has exceptional uses and special times and seasons, and more of a man, who is, on every human ground, worth his salt and standing
Nothing is so deceptive as facts, except figures. The reason, of course, is, that you never get the fact undiluted: an inference slips in unawares. Immediately before my settlement here, one of the old members, a grocer and tea-dealer, withdrew from the church; and as he had been heard to say that I did not preach enough to poor sinners' (i.e., that the words 'poor sinners' did not occur frequently in my sermons), it seemed a safe statement of “fact' to say, that he had withdrawn because he did not like my preaching. This I know was said, but it was mistaken after all. The plausible inference was just the wrong one.
Our good friend withdrew, it appears, to begin preaching on his own account! He had saved a little money in business, which (or part of which, for he is the most canny' of Scots) he invested in a small place not far from his shop, and then turned it into a chapel; as exactly as possible imitating ours, down to a toy clock in front of a toy gallery, which, however, fills half the place. I understand that he had been for some time on confidential terms with T. M. about his ministerial views, and had said that he thought he wasn't well treated by the deacons during the interregnum
here when they were in want of supplies. They might have given him an opening, he thought, to test his gifts. (At the prayer-meetings his gifts' had been tested, and had not received the hall-mark of general acceptance.) He could point (I will put down his exact words as reported to me) to nineteen poor sinners between Roperstreet and Chelmsford-square,' who had been turned to the Lord through his instrumentality ; and he was not well treated by the deacons. Besides, they were a great deal too easy in letting members in. He met Miss who joined the other day, and had a long conversation with her by Cold Bath Fields prison (it was November, and Miss is a delicate, consumptive child of eighteen, who would almost as soon encounter a wild buffalo as our friend, to say nothing of the neighbourhood selected for putting her on the rack) and could not find the least savour of grace in her. Then, what was the good of having tasted that the Lord is gracious ? Let your light shine, --shine was the word,—and the Bible was plain sense for poor sinners. No. Things were not as they should be at Chapel, and whether the Lord would appear for their improvement, he couldn't say. At all events, he did not wait to see. Having adapted and beautified his place which he has actually christened New --- Street Chapel!-he opened it with three sermons, got up a recognition-service,' caught a couple of
deacons,' formed a church,' and has, positively, a congregation. He sent me word the other day that he was now a co-worker with me,' and hoped I would engage to come to his first Anniversary Tea-meeting. He has been preaching on prophecy, and explaining the Number of the Beast in a way which I cannot really make out. I am almost afraid to put down, even in these pages, lest it should appear incredible to my own eyes, that he explains the score’ in three-score’ to mean, score with the pen, or underline the previous figure. How he worked out the whole sum my informant (not T. M., but a much more reliable person) could not tell me. But when it was suggested to him, that when applied to the original, this criticism would break down, because the word "score' would not be found there, our friend, not in the least abashed, said he believed God took care of the translation of his own word, and that if he could get at the Hebrew, (!) he had no doubt he should find his reading of the prophecy borne out. It is creditable to his energy that he is taking lessons in that language of some poor Jew twice a week. But how shall I write what he said to me last Christmas-eve? As I passed his shop, I caught his eye,
and went in. I found him up to his eyes in plum-picking, with two or three helps. Well, Mr. -' I said, 'you look very tired, I think
-, overworked, I suppose ?' 'Yes,' said he, I've been up late picking
I currants and Valencias these three nights; but it is through much tribulation, my brother, that we must enter the kingdom.'!!!-Yet I must not omit to register, that as I was coming home once in the grey of the morning from the bedside of a mother dying with her week-old babe in her young arms, I met my poor friend, carrying under his arms a Bible a foot square in a green baize wrapper, and that, on my asking him where he had been, and not before, he told me he had been at
Kentish Town (a walk of full seven miles from his lodging) all night, reading and praying with an old charwoman that used to have the minding of him sometimes when he was a child.
I often call to mind, in visiting my people, George Herbert's description of “The Parson in Sentinel, who, wherever he is, keeps God's watch: that is, there is nothing spoken or done in the company where he is but comes under his test and censure: if it be well spoken or done, he takes occasion to commend and enlarge it ; if ill, he presently lays hold of it, lest the poison steal into some young and unwary spirits, and possess them even before they themselves heed it. But this he doth discreetly, with mollifying and suppling words : this was not so well said as it might have been forborne ; we cannot allow this: or else, if the thing will admit interpretation, your meaning is not thus, but thus; or, so far indeed what you say is true and well said ; but this will not stand. This is called keeping God's watch, when the baits which the enemy lays in company are discovered and avoided : this is to be on God's side and to be true to his party. Besides, if he perceive in company any discourse tending to ill, either by the wickedness or quarrelsomeness thereof, he either prevents it judiciously, or breaks it off seasonably by some diversion. Wherein a pleasantness of disposition is of great use; men being willing to sell the interest and engagement of their discourses for no price sooner than that of mirth; whither the nature of man, loving refreshment, gladly betakes itself, even to the loss of honour'
The difficulty, in modern times, when the parson and the people are more upon a level of culture, is to interfere as Sentinel for God in conversation, without doing, what I am most anxious to avoid, namely, wearing habitually the air of a functionary. I never go into company without feeling my want of really encyclopædic general knowledge. In this, I think, my brethren in the ministry fall short more than in what is usually meant by 'intellectual culture.' If I could, I would know the day's number of the Times, and the current number of the Post Office Directory by heart! Knowledge is power, aye, every scrap of it.
I was going to put down that too much, almost, is expected of me. Can I kill or make alive? But I ought to be thankful, yea, and I will be thankful, that I have got so near the hearts of my people. Last Lord's day morning I preached from Gal. vi. 2, 5, coupled together. In one part of what I said, I was running over hypothetical cases of social difficulty in this way'you, oppressed servant, and you, ill-served master; you, disappointed father, and you, discontented son; you, weary teacher, and you, fretful scholar ; you, jealous wife, and you, exacting husband'and so forth. I little thought where my words would fall
. During the week I have been appealed to by both husband and wife in a case of domestic difference, where both the parties have an idea that a
little kind counsel can help them. It is a case where nobody (not even T. M., I do believe) would have suspected anything but harmony; there appears, however, to have been a great deal of quiet misery going on for years. I was taken quite unprepared. Generalities, I saw, were not what was wanted, but what could I say? The field of conjugal intercourse, on which differences so often occur, is quite withdrawn from observation, and I could see that I had before me a long story of suffering on both sides, with the leading incidents cut out. One practical counsel I could give, and I gave it. Try and let things rest for a time. Exercise the golden talent of silence only a little, and still small voices of help and consolation will find their way into your ears. You may tease and talk the most unhappy lot into being ten times unhappier than it is in the nature of things. This counsel may not be quite useless to my friends, but, on the whole, I felt that I was playing pilot in strange waters. I was a little disquieted all the afternoon. In the evening I called upon the Hendersons. The widowed mother is sinking. The daughter is gathering health and strength, and courage. I did not stay for much conversation, but when I came into the open air again, I felt as if I had more to say to the unhappy couple than I had before ; and if they should come to me again
I must leave off, for here are T. M. and Billings both together, with faces full of news.
Chalmers is a great, big, brawny writer; but his conscience, like his logic, seems to me often wanting in nicety. I have just shut up his ‘Prelections on Butler and Paley. He tells the students that, in his chapter on the Atonement, Butler is wanting in the sal erangclicum,' and there he leaves it. Now, if he made that remark, he was bound to follow it up by showing how, if Butler had introduced what he, Chalmers, deemed the sal evangelicum, he could have made out his ' analogy with the known course of nature.' . . Butler says, 'How, and in what particular way it (the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ) had this efficacy (for human salvation) there are not wanting persons who have endeavoured to explain; but I do not find that the Scripture has explained it. Nor has any one reason to complain for want of farther information, unless he can show his claim to it.' What a truly Butlerian touch is that last observation !
With what amazing flippancy some of us talk of being perfectly honest in the pulpit! I find perfect honesty in handling the Bible a thing beset with difficulties. Scarcely a text with respect to which there is not an association to be broken through, before I can feel my mind quite parallel with the meaning. Scarcely a scene in the life of
. Christ, in which it does not cost me a distinct effort to place myself accurately at the point of view of the narrator. And when I have satisfied my own mind, or approximatively satisfied it, I have another