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labor that man, under God, is to perform. It is unwise not to be interested in any God-like work; and if the wars and fightings in the State absorb so much attention, because the condition of humanity is so much affected by the issues, why should not Church History have our attention on the same ground? It is the history of the mightest power-a power that lies behind and gives direction to more of the world's battles than we are aware of a power which affects the condition of humanity more than any other element of social action.
Many minds are kept from all the lessons of history because they say they can retain only "general impressions" of what they read or hear. But there is great worth in these "general impressions." It is these which hold for us the benefits of preaching. We cannot retain the texts, divisions, arguments, illustrations, and applications of all the sermons we hear, but impressions favorable to our growth in religion remain our feelings, our affections, our sympathies, retain the influence of all this preaching. We are better, we are happier, for it. And wise was the church-goer who compared these general impressions to the influence of the water on the linen she was bleaching the sun dried it all up, and no trace could be seen of the quantities she had poured on the linen; "but," said she," the linen grows whiter and whiter every hour." So, general impressions received from hearing or reading historical truths, may bleach out many an error, many an evil prejudice, which stains the soul. "General impressions will enable us to treasure up in our minds all the great leading lessons, all the philosophy of history," says one of the best teachers of that branch of learning.
Church History, equally with the history of the State, affords stirring events, dramatic scenes, remarkable characters, enlarging our knowledge of human nature and giving greater efficiency to our own ideas of right and truth. We obtain from it more comprehensive views of men and times; we see from what small beginnings great results have flowed; how evil and its remedy have sprung up together the one luxuriant for a while, the other of slower growth, but of enduring beauty. We are made able to unite cause and effect more wisely; to become less deceived by pretension; to enhance our estimate of
calm judgment, dispassionate speculation, the nobility of adherence to principle; and we cannot fail to see the demand for broad charity and genuine tolerance, as we look on the diversity of character and opinion where there is equal honesty of purpose, purity and strength of effort, and goodness of character. History has thus much of the influence of travel, which carries a man into new society, new scenes, different manners and customs, and shows him what diversities of forms the same human nature can put on. History may test our temper and disposition as well as travel; and thus, without leaving our homes, we may be able to obtain the moral benefits of wise travel.
And surely it seems to me that to be able to bring into one common point of view the phenomena of various religious parties to see their characteristic working, and to behold, in all this, new evidences of the vitality of the. religious sentiment and the supremacy of religious convictions, must enlarge our charity and help to the possession of a true and noble spirit of discipleship. A disinclination to engage in this labor is often a proof of contractedness of mind; of an unwillingness to see evidences for thinking better of those who differ from us. With some it is an evidence of a want of real faith in what they profess to believe-a shrinking from examination-an unworthy leaning upon others a willingness to be reduced to a mere echo; and, like a parrot, they repeat what they have been taught, without any self-use of what has been given them. They utterly deprive themselves of all means of attaining to one of the best exercises of the mind-the ability to draw inferences from an author's statements, which the author never dreamed of, and by which he is many times confuted by his own pages. With this power a man may become as a bee, finding honey where spiders are at work for only poison, and he may hive up sweets where the other laborers have no such end in view. Thus he may solve Samson's riddle,"Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." How severe is the retribution visited on the man who gives up his mind to others, and deprives himself of all true self-energy, following the traditions of men, while those traditions make him transgress the commandments of God!
· Church History has been discarded because it deals so much in disputes, controversies, quarrels, bitterness; and when the field is looked upon, it appears but a mass of confusion. But is it not the same with a glance at any form of history? Has not the State its martyrs, its battles, its confusion, as well as the church? Science, philosophy, art,-what is the history of either of these but confusion when glanced at; but how interesting and instructive when approached wisely! When we come to matters of principle-when we see from what trivial things the grandest questions have arisen-when we behold how magnificent small things become by reason of the consequences they enfold-when we witness the struggles of brave and good men, in the spirit of lofty selfdenial for the freedom of the soul, and how a good cause may clothe the humblest man with a majesty no king or potentate ever knew, history becomes order-out of chaos rises harmony, as where all dark and mourningly lies the ocean till the moon rises and changes the whole scene.
The dry and unattractive manner in which Church History has been presented has kept its importance from the people. Too much has the notion been taken for granted, that religion must necessarily be dull, and hence with all the dramatic elements of any history, the most stirring and momentous annals of mankind have been narrated in the most lifeless manner. The vividness of general impressions depends on the use of the pictorial faculty by the speaker or writer-hence the vindication of our Lord's manner of instruction so abounding with this power that it is said, Without a parable-a story, a picture-spake he not unto the people. However much it may be true that ecclesiastical events are dislocated, isolated, having no unity, "yet," says James Martineau, "there are portions containing elements for strong impression; there are persecutions, and councils, and crusades; there are broad contrasts of idolatrous civilization and a barbarous christianity, of the genius of Rome and the spirit of Christ, of the religion of the East and the philosophy of the West; there are matchless heroes of conscience in the Alpine fastnesses, and intrepid reformers in the cities of Germany; and there is no reason why the power of these passages should be abandoned to the province of fiction."
This is wisely said; and are we aware what grand elements are given to the fictionist by the facts which lie so cold and dead on the page of Church History? There is always a loss of moral effect when the dry detals of events make the mind revolt at the madness of zeal and the inhuman butchery of man by man for religious differences, when, by another treatment, the soul might also be fired to noble daring by the magnanimity of the martyr and the divine ends for which he dies.
But no dryness of narrative can prevent a true soul from perceiving the truly picturesque and the sublime in religious action and character. Where the historian is profuse with his anathemas-where he hides every trait of heroism, as he thinks, and denies to a character any quality of Christian conduct, the heart which sympathizes with the sufferer sees his face shining like that of Stephen, and stands before the spectacle of his martyrdom as before the truly sublime. He does not ask for prompting where to applaud. He remembers who came to minister to Jesus while fierce bands were approaching Gethsamane to bear him to the mock trial and the cross. And from the very reasons which the historian offers why it was right that the martyr should die, he draws reasons for canonizing him as a saint of Christ's ever-enduring church of truth.
Church History has its claims upon us in that it is the history of man's loftiest action-the expression of his crowning power. It is the history of the most powerful workings of human nature. What is most startling, most awful, most glorious, stands out in these annals. Tears and smiles are alternately demanded by the recital; and it is most curious to perceive how matters the most ludicrous and the most reverential may be found springing from the same element of religious zeal-a childlike sportiveness and simplicity followed, or accompanied, with the mightiest thought and the most transcendant moral energy.
Church History, as we look into it, presents us the best forms of the mightiest power of man. Christianity brought new forces for and from the human soul. Its story begins at the downfall of ancient civilization, and therefore it is connected with the rise and progress of the new forms of
society. Christianity fostered every principle that had an essential moral life and by which mind had been educated in the past. It has shown sympathy for all intelligence, purity, love. It has been the patron of the intellect the life-guard of the affections. It came to afford a test by which whatever was educative in Judaism or philosophy might be selected from the transient; and it poured, by the life of Christ, a new spiritual force into the heart of mankind, by which it was made capable of better things than before. The reception of that life, the uneclipsed place given to it, was a grand tribute to the goodness, the rectitude, of human nature. If the rejection of Christ proved depravity, the reception of him equally proved goodness; and Christ's place in history shows that the heart of man is never utterly insensible to the appeal of genuine and perfect virtue.
And not alone by books are these things to be proved. Christianity has not only its books, but its monuments; and these show to what new forces it birth-what institutions it has originated. Many of the wild vagaries over which we mourn in the history of the church are really testimonials to the character of Christianity. The ascetic, far removed from society, living in complete isolation, went there, at first, from no deadness of social sympathy, but from quickness of conscience. He could not live in society without breathing tainted air; and to carry out, as he thought, the Scripture, "touch not, taste not, handle not," he must fly to solitude, and live with nature, that he might live with nature's God. And though there. are uncounted instances where love of self, and a desire to exalt self, have made men ascetics and victims of selfcrucifixion in most repulsive forms, yet there are beautiful passages in the history of asceticism, where solitude, the mountain cave, or the desert place, has been made attractive from the trust that its atmosphere, uncontaminated with sin, would permit a more intimate communion with the Deity, whereby the soul would find, "in after-life, soul-strengthening patience and sublime content." How interesting and instructive must it be to see the incoming of a power, from the more expanded truth, by which these and like errors are corrected, and man is made to remember that Jesus prayed the Father not to take his