Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

will read these Sermons—the evangels of liberty-with intense interest and satisfaction, after having the gospel of slavery"servants obey your masters ”—perpetually dinned in their ears. The true Christians among the former slaveholders themselves will find the silent utterances of their own consciences eloquently voiced in the bold denunciations of that institution with which they were once implicated. Even the slave-traders and rebels of former days will have a natural curiosity to see the enginery which hurled its deadly bolts at the grim Moloch whom they worshiped, and which consumed him in his own fires. They will find the “National Sermons” the best specimen of an abolition battery.

The prophetic character of these discourses will attract the attention of the Christian philosopher. In every Sermon, even in “The Death of Freedom”—the passage of the Nebraska Bill-in “The State Struck Down”-the assault upon Charles Sumner—and in the “National Midnight"—the election of James Buchanan—there are the clearest predictions of the immediate downfall of Slavery, while, in the capture of John Brown, he sees the “beginning of the

end."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

In 1856 he asserts that “if we postpone our political reformamation to the presidential contest of 1860 there will be civil war.” In December, 1859, on the day of John Brown's execution, he used these words: “Ere long slavery will lose Waterloo. Within this first century of our national life it will disappear. Then will all men unite in praising this Samson who first tore down the pillars of this soul-devouring Dagon.In 1860, on the election of Abraham Lincoln, he predicts “The bell that rang out the first birthday in the ears of all the nations, will ring out its first centennial with the prophetic words inscribed upon it, Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitants thereof-no longer prophecy to be accomplished by a long and perilous and bloody path, but blessed, unchanging history.” So marvelously have these prophecies been fulfilled, that we should be tempted to the skeptic's resort of asserting that the prediction was made after the events, did we not know that the author was incapable of such an act, and, moreover, that these predictions were printed at the time of their utterance. We would ask the

[ocr errors]

disbeliever in the prophecies of the Bible whether, in view of the fact that a great truth gave such an elevation to an uninspired human intellect, the Spirit of truth may not lift the soul to those serene heights whence the future events of the world's history may be clearly discerned ?

Their rhetorical excellence is another notable feature of these Sermons. In the first, entitled the “Higher Law," delivered in Amenia, where the author was teaching, his style is less popular. He approaches his theme as if before a class in ethics, on the metaphysical side, developing the Higher Law from an examination of man's moral nature, just as Sir W. Hamilton bases the proof of the existence of God upon the existence of mind in man. But all the subsequent Sermons, though burdened with thought, go straight as an arrow to the heart of the people. If he ever falls into a metaphysical train of thought, in the language of Dr. Olin, he “makes his metaphysics luminous." He has a fine perception of resemblances, and hence, like his great Master, his Sermons abound in “likes.” His style is enriched with lustrous and precious gems gathered from the whole range of English poetry; yet every gem is chosen, not for its brilliancy, but for its incisive diamond point, wherewith to engrave his earnest thoughts upon the hearts of his auditors. He has attained the mastery of the “art of putting things.” He is a true lover of Nature, and a strong poetic vein runs through all his writings. In descriptive power he is the Thackeray of American Sermon writers. In the statement of a truth and the enforcement of a duty there is a luxuriance of historical illustration arising from the preacher's perception of the same principles appearing in various guises from age to age. In the blood of Charles Sumner shed on the Senate floor, he sees the blood of the man Jesus Christ shed in essentially the same cause by the same malignant and tyrannical spirit. In the Charlestown Court-house, where John Brown was arraigned before a slaveholding jury, he sees the mockery of the Gabbatha. This power of discovering what Plato calls the tò &v in the trożná, the one in the many, is a striking peculiarity of Mr. Haven's intellect, and explains the freshness and richness of his style. His soul takes fire at every form of injustice; but in his hottest denunciations he combines the fearlessness of John Knox with the tenderness of John of Patmos. Though he speaks on the most exciting themes he employs no invective, betrays no bitterness, always chooses hard arguments instead of hard words, and ever

"Hates the sin, and yet the sinner loves." If a vigorous and commanding, rather than an “imbecile," pulpit is the demand of the age, we know of no modern model of sacred rhetoric more inspiring of the spirit of Christian manliness than these Sermons.

Their most striking characteristic is their evangelical philanthropy. Their author is deeply impressed with the sacredness of man. His education in Boston, a city eminent for its advocacy of human rights; the inflnence of the eloquent and philanthropic Channing over all highly cultivated minds; his fondness for Wordsworth, the poet of the lowly; his studies of Wesley, and the antislavery Methodist fathers, all contributed to inspire in him a love for man, especially for the oppressed, which betrays itself on every page of his writings. The philanthropic element of Christianity, so prominent in the labors of Wesley and in the eleemosynary appeals of Whitefield, has perceptibly declined in modern Methodism. In disproving the charge of her Calvinistic opposers that she taught justitication by works, she very naturally has leaned in the opposite direction. It is also a natural result of the prominence of the doctrine of justification by faith, that the second great commandment of the law should be correspondingly depressed. Every age which succeeds a restoration of evangelical doctrines needs its St. James to correct the abuses of the Pauline statement of Gospel truth. Our National Preacher is the St. James of modern Methodism magnifying the works of the law of love as an indispensable proof of the genuineness of the believer's faith in Jesus Christ. He earnestly denounces respect of persons in the Christian Church—the preference of inen not on the ground of characters divinely transfigured, but for the accidents of rank, wealth, nationality, or color-substituting for the ringfingered and goodly appareled, the white-faced man; and for the poor man in vile raiment, the dark-skinned and woollyhaired brother in Christ. He demands that all distinctions containing the least shadow of a reproach or intimation of inferiority be done away in the Christian Church. “We must expunge the word "colored' from our Minutes,” said he in 1863.

[ocr errors]

“Suppose an unfortunate dwarf should join this Church, and the Pastor should return three hundred full grown adults and one dwarf.”

“What a torrent of indignation would be poured on our Missionary Board if they should publish in their East India returns their Brahmin and Pariah members in separate columns !” This usage of the Methodist Episcopal Church disappeared by order of the General Conference the following year, to the loss of the statistician, but to the honor of the Church, and to the relief of sensibilities needlessly wounded. But the National Preacher is not satisfied with this. He insists on the abolition of all distinctions among Christians arising from nationality, color, or condition. The negro pew, the African church, the colored conference, must all be swept away, as offensive to the Head of the Church, who prays for the oneness of his ' members, and who abhors all distinctions among his disciples not founded on character. From the earnestness and eloquence of his plea for the extinction of caste in Church, in State, and in social life, and from the constant reiteration of this duty, we infer that the preacher has a burden from the Lord, a “woe unto me" if I preach not this Gospel. To men of cooler temperament, and narrower range of vision, who have not conquered their prejudices by the growth of a broad and evangelical philanthropy, the preacher may seem to be tithing the mint and cummin to the neglect of the weightier matters of the law, and to be magnifying out of proper proportion the comparatively harmless American usage of studiously and scrupulously separating themselves from their sable fellow-men. The brotherhood of man, bruised, fettered, despoiled, and vilified through the long ages, but elevated and crowned at last in the coronation of Christ his elder brother, is not an affair of the mint and cummin character, but in the spirit which it inculcates, and the purpose at which it aims, it takes on a significance broad as the human race, and high as that throne which redeemed men are to share with the Godman. There must be a radical defect in that form of Christianity which can be contemptuous to a black saint and complimentary to a white sinner. There must be a strange obtuseness of moral perception in that Christian who does not discover that this is the very sin portrayed and condemned in the Sermon on the Mount, “Whosoever is angry with his

[ocr errors]

brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.” We believe with Mr. Haven that this feeling of caste is not only marring the beauty of American Christianity, and creating schisms in the body of Christ, but it is poisoning its vital currents and corrupting its very heart. The preacher very clearly sees that the social equality of the African with the Caucasian involves, as a possible result, an amalgamation of the races. He is not the man to evade the logical consequence of his doctrine, but he boldly accepts and justifies it. In his sermon on “Caste, the Corner-Stone of American Slavery,”

he says:

So when you ask us if we believe in the intermarriage of the races, we answer, True marriage is a divine institution. Such hearts are knit together by the hand that originally wove them in separate but half-finished webs. God makes this unity. It he does not, then it is a conventional, human thing, subject to the whims of human society. As it respects such marriage, (between white and black,) all I need to say is, It is none of our business. It is the business of the two souls that are thus made one by the goodness and greatness of their Creater. If heart is one with heart, then with Shakspeare must you say,

“Let me not to the marriage of true souls

Admit impediment." That greatest of poets and thinkers carries this principle to its fullest expression in the marriage of the most womanly of his women and the most manly of his men. He sets the loves of Desdemona and Othello far above the range of groveling criticism.

If we cannot accept this doctrine, consistency requires that we make a bonfire of St. Paul's speech on the Areopagus. The whole question of marriage is to be left to those mysterious affinities which bring together true lovers in holy wedlock. These should not be prevented by social ostracism, or by unwise and unrighteous legislation, and be driven into criminal relations. The disastrous consequences of such unwarranted interference with the natural course of human affections are thus set forth by Mr. Haven: “Said a clergyman to Mrs. Johnson, the God-given wife of Vice-President Richard M. Johnson, You cannot join the Church, because you have not been married.' She told her husband what had been said to her. He replied, “Tell your minister, my dear, that I am ready, and always have been, to be publicly married, and ask him to come and marry us this very night. The clergyman dared not do his

66

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »