Page images

Emma? How dare you, Jemima, inflict any more tortures in remote apartments in respect of Bobby's wrongful retaliation of injuries ? We have brought him to church to learn his duty, and he is being told his duty is to hunt down his enemies, howl at them, worry, destroy them, as soon and as much as he possibly can.

We are about to sing. Two strangers are in our pew, and, of course, they have no hymn-books. How

could they know the collection we used ? Almost every church has a different collection. For what purpose ? Why should this congregation sing their prayers and praises in different strains to that congregation? For no earthly reason, I believe, Jemima. However, they do so; and now, as a consequence, this very morning you must surrender your hymn-book to these destitute strangers, and we must most inconveniently share mine between us.

Ah, yes, I thought they were due. Charity sermons next Sunday, Jemima. Three Sundays, at least, have passed since we had sermons for the Ojibbeway Indians Tract Society. We were then told that there could not be any institution so deserving our aid as that society ; now, of course, we shall hear that its claims are quite cast into the shade by those of the “ Decayed Washerwomen's Conversion Society.” Jemima ahem!--we have been long talking of going to hear the fluent Mr. Treacle in our neighbourhood. I think, my dear-ahem !—we will go next Sunday.

But now, Jemima, give your earnest attention to the sermon about to begin. A stranger has ascended the pulpit, and has carried with him a manuscript of such extensive dimensions that two old ladies in the free seats have left abruptly, the fact being, that they dine punctually at one o'clock, and if the sermon be in the least longer than usual, they are inconveniently delayed, and their husbands, who never go to church, are greatly wroth. To say the truth, Jemima, I wish I could follow these old ladies; but for appearance I am compelled to stay, and bear the misfortune which I am sure is coming upon us.

Yes. I have not been mistaken. We do not employ sickly cripples as policemen-we do not choose men without arms to be footmen-we do not now, at all events, select actual idiots for government appointments—we do not engage lunatics to be nurses of the sick- -we do not place burglars as sentries over the Bank treasures--we do not appoint as schoolmasters men who cannot write their names. No ; we generally take care that men chosen for a duty shall be, at least, tolerably well able to perform such duty. But there is one great exception to our practice : we allow our pulpits to be filled by men so shamefully incompetent to turn the high privilege and duty of preaching to any good account, that the benefit conferred by pulpit discourses requires to be submitted to a mieroscope before you can obtain a just idea of its dimensions. Now, here is this reverend gentleman who is preaching to us (nearly two thousænd in number) this morning. If this, instead of being a church congregation, were a large public meeting, and the reverend gentleman were to attempt to continue speaking more than five minutes, we should hoot him down; and he might be thankful if we did not put him out of window afterwards. The fact is, that the setting up this gentleman to address an audience is about as absurd as would be the appointing a lunatic cripple to be general of an army. He has given out a text, and


he has dandled it about, and mumbled and fumbled over it, declared the subject most important, besought a blessing both upon preacher and hearers, made a ludicrous and even an objectionable effort to divide under so many heads a simple statement which can have but one head and one meaning, and has then rolled away on to a long rambling exhortation, the most pointless, tedious, and ineffective which can well be imagined. There are not a hundred people out of this large congregation paying the least attention. The merchant's thought has almost involuntarily turned to the morrow's bargain, the stockbroker's to yesterday's speculation, the tradesman's to his newly arrived stock, and the mechanic's to the baked shoulder of mutton and potatoes which-short sermon or long sermon- 2he means to be sharing with his family at ten minutes past one o'clock punctually this day. Even my Jemima has a suspicious look of light slumber about her, and several worthy old fellows in the free seats have been beaten in a manful struggle, and are snoring loudly.

Still he drones on. You will nearly always find the worst preachers are the longest. They are certain to be tyrants. They refer to points yet untouched, to be dealt with “presently," with cruel calmness and resolution. They have numberless “ finallys" and hosts of “words in conclusion.” They have addresses to different classes—the rich and the poor-the young and the old—the good and the wicked. They have had to write a sermon, and they have written a sermon. The law stationer's clerk has to copy a document, and he copies it. Mind has been employed well-nigh as much in the one duty as the other.

It is a hard case. The themes upon which the minister must dwell are so high and so glorious that, be as poor and miserable as he may in ideas, language, and delivery, each member of the congregation will at intervals give ear to a word or two of his discourse. Even the hungry mechanic, whose heart is mainly occupied by the weighty subject of the baked shoulder of mutton and potatoes, will wake up now and then to hear a little good advice, however ungracefully and unattractively it may be tendered. But if the preacher's eloquence at all approximated to the vastness and grandeur of the subjects of his discourse, we should look in vain for the listless aspect, the careless mien, the tired gesture. There is an artillery in the Bible which can be used with appalling force. The cheek can be blanched and the mind fixed by the exercise of very little oratorical

power when we have to speak of death and the eternal world. The bosom may be made to heave and the heart be touched by even a few short simple sentences properly framed and well delivered, when attention has to be drawn to a love which never slumbers, and a hand ever ready to guide the weakest and the humblest to the one sure haven. A sermon which we heard some months back, and which had no pretensions to eloquence, closed with this inquiry of the congregation: amongst us will first be laid in his grave?” These few words, simply and solemnly uttered, were worth not only more than all the rest of the sermon, but more than a multitude of sermons unrelieved by any remark so perfectly natural and yet so moving and impressive. The preacher has everything in his favour towards producing an effect upon his congregation, and so long as he shall not be guilty of irreverence—so long as his discourse, however tame it may be, shall contain nothing calculated to upset the sombre feelings which the previous office of prayer will have


* Who

[ocr errors]

excited, he can scarcely fail to get some entrance (a kind of peep in at the back door) into the hearts of the majority of his congregation, for a measure, at all events, of warning and advice.

But what poor work is this! Mr. Spurgeon drives all his warning and advice into the ears and hearts of his audience, and but that, as we have explained, the whole atmosphere of the Surrey Hall is so utterly antagonistic to devotional feeling, every circumstance around fighting against religious occupation instead of facilitating it—and but that, unfortunately, Mr. Spurgeon himself seems, by his style of preaching, not averse to this strange and inconsistent jumble of laughter and sorrow, lofty thoughts and thoughts very earthy indeed, we should join in earnest eulogy of the Surrey Hall services. Mr. Spurgeon's force and fluency, bis strong will, his fierce determination, are just the qualities we want in our pulpits. Away, indeed, with reprehensible petty jesting, vulgar anecdotes, the tendency to look more to the strength than the sense of an observation, but come to us life and energy, hearty tones and vigorous action. Preacher! instead of standing droning and moaning, scarce heard and less heeded—instead of pouring out in feeble and melancholy fashion an unconnected mass of feeble and melancholy sentences, rouse to the recollection of your high calling, and rise to the very utmost you are capable to the performance of that calling befittingly and effectively. Men are in a slumber leading to death—will you only whisper to them to awake? Men's hearts are as the hard rock—will you seek to rend them with a sigh? Men's desires after good are of the sickliest and the weakest—will you be content to encourage them only by a faint smile and gently murmured hope? Oh that on every Sunday there went forth from every pulpit a stream of fiery eloquence which should burn up every evil thought, and overwhelm every base inclination! It is the fault of the preacher that I listen not to his preaching. He might make me listen. Has he not the ability to speak to me so as to command my attention ? then he should not be in that pulpit. Has he not the disposition ? then he is an unfaithful steward. He need not be a great orator. The gift of eloquence to some extent he certainly ought to possess, but what is of infinitely more importance, he should consume with intense determination to win my heart to heaven. Tell me whether this man who is weakly muttering something in yonder pulpit consumes with desire to turn our souls from the broad and lead them into the narrow way? Look at his lacklustre eye, hearken to the dull croaking which just reaches us, remark the astounding absence of slightest power and beauty from his composition, and tell me whether I have before me an apostle whose duty is with words of fire to remind me of God's wrath, in sweet accents to speak of a Saviour's undying love, and in happy tones of life and hope to bid me remember a Spirit ever ready to be my comforter on earth, my guide to heaven?

Of course, on the other hand, mere noise is not eloquence, and a wild tossing about of the arms makes no favourable impression. A conceited shout is intolerable ; it is worse, even, than the feeble mutter. A pathetic whine is disgusting. A dreary howl is equally bad. An effeminate simper is abominable. Some preachers delight in the terrible ; some in the melancholy; some in the style which we can only describe as “ the making things pleasant.” Mr. Spurgeon has introduced the ludicrous into preaching; a novelty, certainly, and the worst peculiarity which has yet been started. But the strange thing is, that so very few clergymen see fit to preach in the simple, free, unaffected style-preaching, that is, as though they were talking to you, but talking after deep thought of their subject-talking with the heart overflowing

with strong desire to convince and persuade-talking, not in any stilted, pompous fashion, but still with dignity and force, and using phraseology which, while fluent and clear, may be pointed and graceful. Our feeling really is, that unless a clergyman can reach to this standard in preaching his duties ought not to embrace the pulpit. In our courts of law, how much business would be obtained by a barrister who dissatisfied and wearied every jury he addressed ? If the intellect of some newly-made attorney were so perpetually enveloped in fog that the briefs drawn by him were invariably returned by counsel in disgust, as being unintelligible, how soon would that attorney's offices be to let? If a man set up as an accountant, and his clients quickly discovered a singular fancy he had that two and two made five, and that take three from six and four remained, how many balance-sheets would he be employed to prepare ? But in regard to the office of preacher, it is nothing that we find a man so bereft of all qualities required for the addressing a congregation that even the beadle scoffs at him, and the pew-opener derides.

Now, either preaching cannot be that high and important duty which it is declared to be, or this inefficiency ought not to be permitted. We will not allow that the value of preaching is overstated. There are very few of us can listen to a powerful sermon unmoved. The words ring in our ears, and find lodgment in some remote corner of our hearts, where they may be found in a later day. We want the able, the honest, the painstaking preacher, the counsel in the greatest of all causes that of Life versus Death. There must be no faltering tongue employed in the argument of this vast question. When the minister stands in his pulpit, how it should stir him to remember whose counsel he is, how it should thrill through him the thought that this church is in fact a court, that this congregation is a jury, and that the decision of such jury may rest more or less upon the force of the appeal to which they are now about to listen. Shall the counsel wax faint-shall his words be feeble-shall he grow dull and spiritless? With such a cause as this in hand -50 awful, so overwhelming—and watched with such anxiety by a host of invisible spectators—the angels of light, the fiends of darkness-shall not this jury be plied with an appeal exhibiting almost superhuman energy-a warning so terrible that their stricken souls shall shake with horror-an invitation so sweet and so enticing that they shall stretch forth their arms at once to embrace and hold fast for ever the “ peace

which passeth all understanding ?”



CHRISTOPHER HANSTEEN, a native of Christiana, and now professor and director of the Observatory in the capital of Norway, was born in 1784. He distinguished himself so much in early life by his success in mathematical and astronomical pursuits, that he was appointed professor at Copenhagen when twenty-two years of age. His first publication, “ Researches in Terrestrial Magnetism,” at once placed him high among the scientific celebrities of the age. The same remarkable subject of inquiry has remained with Hansteen as it has with some of the distinguished men of this country-notoriously General Sabine—an allabsorbing predilection ; but he has also lent his eminent abilities to questions of more practical bearing, and having reference to the astronomy, geography, and meteorology of his own country, as also to the system of weights and measures. Still the progress of inquiry in terrestrial magnetism was what most occupied his mind. He was not satisfied with merely chronicling the researches of Sabine, Ross, Keilhau, Humboldt, Lütke, Krusenstein, and others; he became embued with an ardent desire to fill up himself the great lacuna that was wanting in determining the magnetic condition of the long line of country which extends from St. Petersburg to the Lena. He, in consequence, advocated the importance of an inquiry into the magnetic system of Siberia, and his proposition having been favourably received, the Storthing granted the necessary funds; and the journey of which we now propose to ourselves to give some account began in the year 1827, and concluded in 1830.

Men of science have been for now some time past made acquainted with the results of this interesting journey ; but it was not till the year 1849 that Professor Hansteen was induced by his friends to give to the more general public a popular account of his travels, which he did in detached papers in the Norsk Folke Kalendar. These were subsequently collected by Dr. Sebald of Berlin, and then translated, with additions, into French by Madame Colban. It is to this last work that we are indebted for the following details.

Hansteen quitted his little professoriat at Hilleröd, in Seeland, on the 19th of May, for Stockholm. He was accompanied by Lieutenant Due, of the Norwegian navy, and a servant, Anders Nielsen by name. The king addressed to him, previous to his departure, some paternal admonitions. “Remember, sir,” he said, “ that the Russian soil is not the same as the soil of Norway; here you can say what you like, but it is quite a different thing in Russia. You must not trouble yourself with politics there.” The professor having assured his majesty that he understood terrestrial magnetism, but was perfectly ignorant of terrestrial politics, he was allowed to sail in the good ship Sappho for Cronstadt. Although preceded by official notices and the necessary introductions, his Norwegian blood rebelled at the onset at the most vexatious police and custom-house interference to which he and his companions were subjected. Had he known, he says, what he would have had to suffer at first starting, he

* Souvenirs d'un Voyage en Sibérie. Par Christophe Hansteen, Directeur de l'Observatoire de Christiana. Traduits du Norvégien par Madame Colban, et revus par MM. Sedillot et De la Roquette.

« PreviousContinue »