« EelmineJätka »
select his text or premeditate his subject before entering the pulpit, deeming it necessary that he should absolutely trust the Lord both for his text and his sermon. “Open thy mouth and I will fill it.” But he learned better as he grew older, and when a more excellent way opened to him, he was equally honest in following it. In those earlier years he was not as uniformly effective in his ministrations as afterward. Judging from a comment in the unpublished journal of the late Bishop Waugh, he made comparative failures in the pulpit even after he was a professor at Meadville. “Wheeling, Va.—Heard Prof. Simpson preach in the evening—it was only a tolerable performance.” But he studied and triumphed. No young man can fully know what stuff he is made of until he has studied with all his might, and studied persistently.
In the matter of physical advantages he has also illustrated the efficiency of an intelligent, straightforward courage. Instead of yielding to an early tendency to pulmonary disease, and desisting from preaching, he persevered and enred it. Open-air exercise, continuous and judicious speaking, saved me, as I believe, from a premature death,” he has more than once been heard to say. Nor was there any thing in his person, until it expanded and glowed with the inspiration of an audience, which impressed one with his power. He would never have been picked out of an assembly, by those who knew him not, as a great man. His form was tall, but slight and stooped ; his head was small for the size of his body, with a low forehead, projecting shaggy eyebrows, and there was not the dome-like cranium which is popularly associated with the highest intellects. His eyes, when he was in repose, were bright enough, but not at all pierciug, and were rather quiet, and indicative of kindly, benevolent feeling, than of incisive thought and great willpower. It was not until he was fully aroused and on fire with some mighty subject that you had “the warrior's eye beneath the philosopher's brow.” Then the whole form and features, like some ancient classic urn, shone resplendent from the brightness within. Who can ever forget his looks as, thus transfigured, he spoke to us of Christ and heaven, until the gates of paradise seemed to open above him, and we with him gazed in at the celestial glory and saw the King in his beauty.
Bishop Simpson was a remarkable example of the union of the highest mental qualities in the most perfect harmony. He was both a philosopher and an orator. His brilliant eloquence was associated with profound and far-reaching thought. His career is a standing refutation of the baseless assumption that a man cannot be a popular preacher and a deep, close thinker.
Genius,” says Guizot, “is bound to follow human nature in all its developments. Its strength consists in finding within itself the means of satisfying the whole of the public. It should exist for all, and should suffice at once for the wants of the masses and for the requirements of the most exalted minds." There were those who were ready to say of Dr. Durbin, before his profound practical wisdom was wrought into the immortal Methodist missionary scheme, that he was simply an “inspired declaimer.” And I presume there are some persons sufficiently narrow to deny to the most eloquent orator of England that he is at the same time the most sagacious, comprehensive statesman. Mr. Gladstone could not to-day be the mightiest factor in British and continental politics without his popular oratory; nor would his eloquence avail unless sustained by the deepest and clearest insight into the principles which underlie both divine and human governments. Bishop Simpson was capable of the keenest analysis and the most abstruse discussions, as his articles on conscience and kindred topics, written when he was an editor, abundantly show. He could have excelled as a metaphysician, if metaphysics had been his chosen field; and had he devoted himself to the natnral sciences in which he began as a college professor, he might have become a Henry, a Silliman, or possibly an Agassiz. He had an Eye for principles whichever way he turned. It was this power of discernment and penetration that so stamped with common sense all he did that some, in characterizing his intellectual make-up, have been attracted more by his judiciousness than by all else.
Another fact which is well worthy of note is, that there is not, and need not be in this age or any age, a decline in the power and influence of the pulpit. The sustained popularity of Bishop Simpson and Mr. Spurgeon for so many years, not to name others, shows that when the human heart is rightly addressed it will respond. To say nothing of the great truths-pardon,
holiness, providence, and heaven, which form the substance of preaching and which are so indispensable to the soul-preaching, when really eloquent, appeals to the æsthetic nature of man. As an art it has its foundation in the higher susceptibilities of human nature, precisely as music or painting or any other fine art has. Indeed, there is no power like the power of the tongue. There is nothing in the whole range of nature which gives such satisfaction as talking. The faculty of speech is man's noblest endowment.
People love to talk and to be talked to, and hence conversation is the most agreeable relaxation, and that which usually caps all other exercises. Where preaching, rising upon the conversational tone and manner as a basis, keeps true to nature, it never can cease to be attractive. The vice of the pulpit has been an artificial, stilted, professional style of delivery.
The same may apply too well to the rhetorical structure of sermons. But average people will listen to almost any thing which is spoken in a natural manner. The soul will always kindle to eloquent thoughts, eloquently spoken. And if preachers ignore this vantage ground which the God of nature has given them, in the love which is implanted in all men for the beautiful, and shall fail to meet its requirements, then surely must the pulpit decay. It is not enongh for men called of God to skulk under the cover that the Gospel is indispensable to mankind, and that men must be damned if they do not listen to it. No honest preacher wants to shield his neglect of study and culture under the sacredness and importance of his message; on the contrary, the more he is impressed with its holy and stupendous character the more he yearns so to present it as that, in his manner at least, there shall be nothing to repel, but every thing to attract, those to whom his message is to be either a savor of life unto life or a savor of death unto death. God's great method of saving the world by preaching is so grounded in supernatural and natural reasons as that there need never be a decadence of the pulpit. Such examples as that of Bishop Simpson in our own times strikingly illustrate the position. Nothing but lack of moral convictions, spiritual earnestness, and professional enthusiasm can bring about a falling away from the eloquence of the fathers in the Gospel.
ART II.-CONSTITUTIONAL LAW IN THE METHODIST
[FIRST PAPER.) CAURCHES are spiritual empires, and in these realms, as in the state, prosperity and liberty are safe only in the guardianship of law. It is true that the aim of the Christian Church is holy, and its principles are professedly drawn from the word of God, but its subjects and rulers are erring men, and its prizes have a fascination for human ambition hardly surpassed by those of secular empires. Nowhere else has man been so degraded and his natural rights trodden upon as in religious organizations.
Our aim in these articles is to throw light on the somewhat obscure and confused question of the constitutional law of the Methodist Episcopal Church, to define that law, trace the history of its development, and bring together some of the principles that have been established during the first century of our history. There are many difficulties in such an inquiry. The field is a comparatively new one; the literature of the subject is fragmentary and scattered, and the data are uncertain and frequently contradictory. We have no Supreme Court to whose records we may appeal for final judgments. It is one of the defects of our system that the General Conference, which is our legislative body, is also our nltimate Court of Appeals. “ The General Conference,” says Dr. L. L. Hamline in his famons speech in 1844 (General Conference Journal, Debates, p. 130), “is a Court of Appeals beyond which no parties can travel for the care of errors. It is the dernier ressort, not only of appellants, but of original complainants. If it err, which is not a legal presumption, its unwholesome error is incurable except by the vis medicatrix—the medicinal virtue--of its own judicial energies."
The Methodist Episcopal Church is a Church of constitutional and statute law. From the earliest days of its history the functions and responsibilities of its officers were clearly defined in the yearly Minntes and Discipline, as were also the duties and privileges of its members.
Our judicial system dates from the organization of the Church. There have, however, been conflicting opinions in the Church and in the General Conference on constitutional questions, especially as to the prerogatives of the episcopacy and the powers of the General Conference. Upon these vexed questions we hope to throw some light, and to put the entire subject in such form as to lead to settled results. It is a subject that needs careful and painstaking inquiry. It would not be difficult to prove that the gravity of constitutional obliga tions has not always been sufficiently felt in our past history.
Let the reader recall, as examples, the action of the General Conference of 1844, in connection with the separation of the Church South, the action of the Conference of 1868 in adinitting representatives from Mission Conferences, and the action of 1872 in relegating Conference boundaries to a committee
Another fact which commends this question to the careful study of the ministers and people of the Church is, that there is probably no Church in Christendom where there is so much discretionary power committed to its officers as in the Methodist Episcopal Church. It has been our boast that we have an efficient executive and a strong government.
Our economy demands this, inasmuch as it is indispensable to the continuance of that fundamental institution of Methodism, the itinerancy, the institution which, next to the grace of God, is the fount and origin of our prosperity. But a powerful executive is also a dangerous one; and in exact proportion to the power of the center should be the explicitness of the laws that define and protect the rights and privileges of the individual members of the Church and of the ministry.
The constitution of the Methodist Episcopal Church is both written and unwritten. As written, it includes the organic statutes that were enacted for the government of the Church by the General Conference of 1808, or that have since been legally adopted. The Conference of 1808 may be called the Constitutional Convention of the Church, for the reason that it was the last General Conference composed of all the traveling preachers, and that it provided for the future government of the Church by a delegated Conference acting under constitutional restraints. It is usual to say that the written constitution is the six Restrictive Rules with the fainons grant of power which precedes them, to wit :