garded, this is perhaps true. Yet it is a fact easy of explanation, and argues in the clergy no mental inferiority. The objects of both must be considered to render the estimate correct. There are different kinds of interest a public speaker may excite, as he appeals to passion on the one hand, or on the other to reason, the nobler affections and conscience of man. The grandest of all human results is produced by addressing the higher faculties and the moral sentiments. A demagogue may infuriate the mob without one grain of sense in him or them. It needs no great power to produce effects which last for a moment by appealing to hatred or fear. These are passions quickly roused, and the reckless and unprincipled excite them most easily. Far other is the business of him of whom we speak. The minister of Jesus has no object to foster pride, and inflame passion and excite to violence, but, infinitely higher, to calm the agitated breast, and breathe into it purer feelings and a spirit of peace. The word spoken by him strikes not at sudden, temporary effects, but has an aim to control the whole current of life and of society. And its results are to be measured by the fruit of years. Such influence characterizes the truest sublimity of intellect. The great man toils in secret. There he labors intensely for enduring results. Like the stately elm, which grows up by the silent process of nature through the lapse of a century, the great mind attains its extraordinary growth, not in the hot-bed of passion, but under the clear light of heaven, by the sun and air and dew of holy thought, and pure motive, and benevolent action. We confess to us there is no greatness like this—the greatness of Luther, and Fenelon, and Robert Hall; a sympathy with all things great and good, sanctifying genius, and pervading its highest manifestations;

and even the picture of Erskine or Webster in the finest passages of their oratory sinks beside the inspired eloquence of the blind preacher and Massillon, or Whitefield at Moorfields, or John Wesley preach. ing on his father's grave. What now is the witness of the Christian ages to the power and value of the ministry To what grand result have their labors for centuries tended ? The answer is written in history. For near two thousand years the pulpit has ranked in its effects on mankind with the great influences of literature and legislation, often animating and controlling both. Instances of exalted attainments and successful exertion every where abound in the church. From the days of the golden-mouthed Chrysostom to Saurin and Bourdaloue, these depositaries of learning and religion have spoken in commanding tones to the world. And to pass by the million-voiced appeals which no record has preserved, there still live in the body of English literature productions of the ministry, specimens of as lofty eloquence, of as pure thought and sentiment, as ever enriched the noblest of human tongues. These are the men who have led in every important moral movement. They have headed the advancing columns of liberty, of humanity and religion throughout the globe. Armed with the authority of God, they alone have been able to stand in ages of despotism against the tyranny of kings. See how the labors of the fearless reformers sent out a restoring influence among the nations, as it brought the truths and motives of religion into new and fresher contact with the general mind. So in all ages of the church the influence of a truly Christian ministry has been to preserve belief in God, to keep alive the sense of religion and accountability in the world, the best bonds of society, and the chief blessings of mankind. Ser

[merged small][ocr errors]

vants of God, they have proved the most devoted benefactors of men ; at once the supporters of divine authority, and the friends of human advancement. There is yet another point which requires mention to give completeness to this subject. It is the influence of pastoral duties on the mind and character of a minister. In considering the tendency of a prosession to enlarge or contract the mind, the exercise given to the intellect is not the only item of account. We wish to learn its bearing on the whole spiritual man. Intellect can not be divorced from the affections. Whatever affects the heart, affects also the understanding. That system of influences which is most favorable to a perfect intellectual and moral development of man, is one which unites contemplative duties with active life, gratifying at once studious habits and social propensities, adding to the force of abstract thought the influence of human and humanizing associations. The happy union of these influences, strikes us as a peculiar felicity of the ministry. The profession necessitates acquaintance with men. And the mingling of active pastoral duties with hours of intense meditation and study, we are persuaded, if entered on with a right spirit, will be found favorable to the formation of the purest and loveliest character. Mingling with all classes of society, frees the kind pastor from that narrow bigotry and pride, so prejudicial to purity, elevation and force of character. He sees all sides of human life and human nature. His associations, so far as they are select at all, are chiefly with the pure, the holy, the blessed of the world. Or,

if he looks after others, it is like.

Howard, entering the prisons of the condemned, or the Savior sitting at meat with publicans; an intercourse of mercy, from which the pure spirit of piety receives no contamination, while, as the eye of pity fills with

tears, the soul of devotion ascends to a yet loftier elevation. The world does not afford a sight combining more of dignity and of grace than such a Christian minister, mingling like his master, among all classes, sharing in their sympathies, and soothing their sorrows; lifting up holy hands in the beautiful ordinance of baptism; pointing the erring to the Lamb of God, and comforting the dying with Christ, the resurrection and the life; the patron of good, himself the example of every virtue: “That tries each art, reproves each dull

elay, Allures % brighter worlds, and leads the

way.” Such is the minister of heaven, a character formed in solitary thought, bending over the book of God, by dying beds, and in awful prospect of the unseen world. These familiar influences work upon the mind day by day, till the seriousness and serenity of the future state become

habitual. It is no objection to the highest order of mind existing in the ministry that men do not commonly look for it there. Common judgments are more the product of capricious tastes than reflection. The most powerful agencies of nature operate unobserved. The stars move in their orbits without noise. Time utters no voice as with resistless hand he takes down the monuments of the past. Some, by confession of the world, among its greatest spirits, were not recognized as such by their own age. The evidence of their greatness has been discovered in the silent moulding of opinion, the guidance given to thought, long after they were dead. It may be that many of the greatest minds now acting on mankind will never be known until the light of eternity shall show where they lived and what they did. Fame is not greatness, nor applause immortal influence. Biography records the outward life. The growth of the soul is often known only to God. With some opportunities for observing the interior life of different professions, our experience has led us to revere the ministry. Ordinary abilities indeed often attempt this profession. It has its weak and incapable men. And so has every other. The pulpit can not hide poverty of intellect, or dignify want of education. Still it is true that minds as great as ever labored under the sun, have counted it their highest honor. Many leading intellects of the age, that would adorn any office to which man may aspire, are in it now. We have seen indeed, humiliating bigotry and narrowness in the ministry. But after all, the greatest men we ever knew, the most pure and generous spirits, and the profoundest intellects, have been members of that profession. If, to crown the evidence of a noble life, as the old philosopher required, one must go calmly to its close, and die as he has lived, let the records of ministerial fidelity speak for him. When the career of active toil is done, he sinks calmly, like the slow descending summer sun to his peaceful setting; and as golden clouds of light linger in the path of that luminary, so after he is gone, the sacred influence of his teachings and example, abide in the thoughts and affections of the living; and in the gentle, reverent tones with which his name is mentioned, is the surest witness of his faithfulness, the best blessing on his memory. We have spoken of the living soul as growing into the image of God, in the power of intellect and virtue. Let the poor, the widow and the orphan write his epitaph. The practical intention of these remarks is to induce in ministers, and all who aspire to the honors and hardships of that commission, a loftier sense of the dignity of their calling. The sublimest of all human trusts is deposited in their

hands, the unsearchable riches of truth and hope in Christ. Would that we could present the pattern of a perfect minister, standing in his desk, with a sense of the sublimity of his office and message, to address a congregation of immortal souls the feelings of that moment, “Holy, holy is the Lord of hosts Wo is me, for I am undone,” till he is ready like the awe-struck Isaiah, to shrink away; and then the delineation of truth, the glowing power of argument, the earnestness of entreaty, that alternately awe, and thrill, and melt the hearer—we would describe them all. We speak thus exaltedly of a profession long beloved, to aid in bringing a nobler race of preachers on the stage, a race that shall fill the openings of the present, and bear up the honors of the past. God from above invites an age of new labors and achievements. The dying earth entreats it in wailing, melancholy voices. We would summon to this noblest of professions, and through it, to the highest of human interests, every various faculty and power of man, the fascination of every gift, and the splendor of every acquisition—joining with the profoundness of German erudition, and the comprehensiveness of Bacon, the impetuous oratory of Chatham, and the persuasive eloquence of Rousseau. We acknowledge the utility of other professions, and the elevating pursuits of literature; and yet we claim, on what grounds has been seen, that this is a profession which overtops all others in importance, laying hold of eternity, and concerning interests to remain when authors, and books, and the pageantry of time, shall perish. When the libraries of learning, and the palaces of . pride shall sink down in the destroying element; and the accumulated wisdom of ages and earthly fame, shall have ceased their empire, this influence, begun on earth and con

tinued into futurity, shall survive in the ransomed soul and the immortal song. We admire the hero. We revere the sage, who gives us thought, and aim and hope; who seems to stand on an eminence above his fellow men, and stretch out his arms over the human race to bless them. How far above the king stands the benefactor of his race, who has quickened the soul to effort, enlarged the boundaries of knowledge, purified men's desires, strengthened their good resolutions, cheered their feeble hopes, and sent an influence abroad, to bless a thousand homes. Such is the influence which the Christian minister is privileged to exert. On the faithful discharge of his duties, rests the hope of the human race.

Let then the minister of Christ dedicate himself a living sacrifice to God, an offering to the spirit of humanity and Christian love; and go forth to that work to which so much of genius has been consecrated, feeling that he is entering on duties which minister to the fullest growth, and call for the intensest action of all his powers; that the field which opens before him is boundless, and the ends in view are all noble ; and that, as he has but one life to live, there is nothing better than to toil without ceasing for the honor of God in the promotion of every thing that is good; for the welfare of man in his regeneration and advancement; for the interests of that kingdom which shall never be destroyed.

[ocr errors]

It is a great refreshment to discover, as we do from time to time, that the spirit of poetry has not yet left the earth, driven away by disgust of the numberless shams and counterfeits that infest her rightful realm. Sometimes a faint gleam of light reaches us, which we see at once can come from no other eye than hers; and again, but with intervals of long duration, the whole atmosphere grows bright in the flashes of her golden wings. We are not about to commit the folly of attempting a set eulogium upon the “Spirit of Poetry,” for behind our recollection of Channing's splendid rhetoric on this very theme, there is a voice saying unto us, “What can the man do that cometh after the king 2" We must be allowed, however, to declare our opinion that a world without poetry, manifested in some

* Poems by Alfred Tennyson. In two volumes. Boston : William D. Tickmor.

1842. Vol. III.

of its numerous forms, would be such a one as we should not care to live in, even if every acre of its broad surface were flowing with milk and honey. We have the highest love, nay, reverence for the true poetic spirit. We rejoice whenever evidence is presented that this spirit yet lives and works among men; and having found what seems to us such evidence, in these two volumes of Mr. Alfred Tennyson, we meet them with a welcome not the less hearty because so long delayed. Ten years ago the elder Dana wrote thus: “A more spiritual philosophy than man ever before looked on, and a poetry twin with it, are fast coming into full life. Yes, a day of far-spreading splendor is breaking; the clear streak of it is already in the east, and the earth even now, here and there touched by it, and yonder, “the dawning hills '''” That which Dana saw in prophetic, or what is much the same thing, poetic vision, has already come upon us. Alfred Tennyson belongs to this new school of poets, having most of the 'excellences and many of the faults which characterize the class. Some of these faults and excellences we now propose to designate as briefly as possible; without venturing, however, upon a minute analysis of the various poems, or of the mind of their author. And as the eye of the critic naturally falls soonest upon blemishes rather than beauties, we charge first of all, that a part of the poems are shadowed by what seems to us a needless obscurity. We are not unaware that what is really profound, can not always, indeed can not often be penetrated at a single glance ; and we are never unwilling to have our faculties tasked, even to the utmost, in uncovering hidden mines of thought. There has been a great deal of unmanly complaint on this score. Intellectual indolence has led many to throw aside in contempt volumes filled with the richest thoughts, merely because the whole mind of the writer did not flow into their minds, as their eyes ran over the page, without any effort on their part to apprehend him. They are offended with new words and new forms of speech, as if the growing mind did not need the enlargement of language, which is its vesture. It is always easy to discover whether or not a writer has an actual, living soul in his sentences, and if we see that it is so, the labor is never lost which we put forth in attempting to bring out that spirit, and to represent it in a formal and substantial being to our minds. The fisherman saw at first, nothing but black, shapeless smoke issuing from the mouth of the vessel which he had drawn from the sea, but as he earnestly gazed upon it, the form and vast proportions of a giant began to develope themselves, until at last they stood revealed in perfect distinctness.

But on the other hand there are some writers belonging to the new school who always remind us of Pope's widow:

“Before my face my handkerchief l spread, To hide the floods of tears l did—not shed.'

Their obscurity is not the result of great ideas, seeking to clothe themselves in a virgin vesture of words, but rather an artificial umbra, employed on purpose to hide the important fact that beneath it there are no ideas at all. It was Talleyrand (was it not *) who defined language as the art of concealing thought, but the writers we speak of, have outfrenched the Frenchman. With them language is not so much the art of concealing thought, as a happy method of hiding the absence of all thinking. The reason why we can not always see the bottom of a stream may be its depth or its muddiness.

We shall not undertake to determine to which of these two causes the obscurity we have charged upon Tennyson is to be ascribed. If we had only the first half of his first volume before us—-those poems namely, all of them short ones, which were published, as the volume itself intimates, previous to 1832—there would be no difficulty at all in forming a judgment; and it could scarcely fail to be one of immediate and total condemnation ; but there is so much of sublime and beautiful thought in the later and longer poems; the pictures which the author paints are so distinct and vivid ; we find it difficult to believe that the earlier dashes of his pen are in reality as senseless as they seem. What shall we say however to such a song as the following 2

“To THE ow L.
“Thy tuwhits are lull'd, I wot,
Thy tuwhoos of yesternight,
Which upon the dark afloat,
So took echo with delight,

That her voice untuneful grown, Wears all day a fainter tone.

« 上一頁繼續 »