LITURGICAL CULTIVATION OF THE PREACHER.
Having. discussed the principal topics in the department of Homiletics, we are brought, now, to a subject which lies outside of it, but which is intimately connected with it, in the services of the Christian sanctuary. It is Liturgies. In passing to this theme, we leave the subject of eloquence, and consider that of worship. In treating of Sacred Rhetoric, we were occupied with the address of an individual to an audience ; but in considering the nature and province of Liturgies, we are concerned with the address of the audience itself to Almighty God.
The liturgical services of the sanctuary are those parts which relate to Divine worship. As the etymology denotes, the liturgy is the work of the people: "keltov, publicum, populare; epyov, opus. The appropriate work of the auditor is worship, as the appropriate work of the orator is eloquence. Not that the two may not sometimes interpenetrate, •—especially in the instance of the preacher, who is himself to worship, while he instructs, and moves his audience to acts of worship. Yet, as it is the peculiar function of the preacher, as such, to address an audience, so it is the peculiar function of the audience, as such, to address God, as the result of the preacher's address to them. Preaching should always end in worship. While the rhetorical processe? of instruction, conviction, and persuasion, belong to the speaker, the liturgical acts of supplication, adoration, and praise, belong to the hearer. But, the preacher is to lead them in these acts of worship, and hence the need of principles, and rules, by which he may be guided in the discharge of this part of his duty. Hence arises the department of Liturgies, in the general course of clerical discipline.
It is necessary, in the outset, to remark, that this department, though an important one, cannot be made so prominent, in those Churches which adopt no complicated formulary of public devotions. It naturally becomes more complex, and comprehensive of rules and regulations, in Churches which, like the Romish, the English, and the Lutheran, use a liturgy. Hence, in the German treatises upon Practical Theology, that part denominated Liturgies is very thoroughly elaborated; and if we do not find the same thing true of Romish, and Episcopal treatises, it is because there is in these communions little disposition to examine into the speculative grounds of ecclesiastical usages, and uot because the department itself is undervalued by them, in actual practice. As matter of fact, in both the Romish and English Churches, the liturgy overshadows the sermon; the forms, and formularies of worship, receive more attention than the principles, and canons, of eloquence. This branch of the subject, consequently, demands a briefer and less elaborate treatment, so far as the wants of those Protestant churches which are distinguished by a simple ritual, are concerned; and we shall be able to exhibit its leading topics, in a single chapter.
The liturgical services of the sanctuary, in those Protestant communions which have no liturgy, are left, very much, to the choice of the preacher. In the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches, the passages of Scripture to be read, the prayers that are to be offered, and, to some extent, the praises that are to be sung, are prescribed by regulation, and are embodied in a collection called the Liturgy. In the other Protestant churches, this choice is left to the individual clergyman, and hence there is, in reality, more need of a careful liturgical discipline, in the instance of the Presbyterian or Congregational clergyman, than in that of the Episcopa lian, or Lutheran, or Romish. For, even if the 3stablished and appointed liturgy should not in all its parts be appropriate, the officiating clergyman has no option; and when its arrangements are appropriate, he has only passively to adopt them as his own. But the minister of a simpler worship, inasmuch as he is deprived of these external aids, needs, all the more, the internal aids of a good taste, and a cultivated mind, that he may make all that part of the services of the sanctuary winch relates to worship, as distinguished from discourse, harmonize with itself, and with the service as a whole There are three topics which fall within this department of Liturgies: namely, selections from Scripture, selections of hymns, and public prayer. We shall discuss them in the order in which they have been mentioned.
1. The reading of a portion, or portions, of Scripture, though not so strictly a liturgical act, is nevertheless not a rhetorical one. It is true, that praise is not always offered to God, in and by this service. On the contrary, preceptive instruction is very often imparted to the people, in the Scripture lessons; and, in this respect, the service seems to belong more to the work of the orator, than to the work of the audience. Still, it does not properly fall within the province of Rhetoric; the principles and canons of Homiletics have nothing to do with this part of Divine service. It must be regulated by the principles of taste. The matter is already formed and fixed in the Scriptures, and there is no call for original composition. It only remains, therefore, to make a suitable choice; and hence, the topic itself falls most properly into the general department of Liturgies. The principal directions to guide the clergyman in the selection of Scripture lessons, are the following.
In the first place, when there is nothing that specially calls for a different selection, he should choose a portion of Scripture that gives expression to some feeling,—such as the feeling of praise, of thanksgiving, of adoration, of contrition. The Psalma are largely composed of such matter, and ought to be selected for the reading before sermon, more often than they are, by the clergy of most Protestant denominations. The great excellence of the English liturgy, consists in the size of the Psalter embodied in it. The Psalms are better adapted than any other compositions, to elicit the Christian feeling of an assembly. They range over the whole field of the affections, and every mood of the Christian heart finds a full and gushing utterance in them. "The haip of David was fullstringed, and every angel of joy and of sorrow swept over the chords, as he passed." They ought, therefore, to be made the means of worship; of stirring the emotions of a Christian assembly, and of preparing it for the lyrical hymn or psalm. There are other portions of the Scriptures, also, like the glowing predictions of the prophets, concerning the future of the Church, which partake of this characteristic of the Psalms. These should be selected by the preacher, so that the Bible, in all its variety of emotional xitterance, may become the. organ through which the Christian assembly givea expression to its own emotions, in the sanctuary In this way, the Bible itself becomes the liturgy.
Secondly, there may be, occasionally, a special reason for selecting a doctrinal, or an historical por tion of Scripture, and hence the clergyman ought not to be rigidly confined to such portions of the Bible as we have mentioned. It may be, that his sermon is of such a special character, as to require the reading of a long passage, which stands in close connection with it. In this particular instance, if he think proper, he may make this service of reading somewhat less liturgical, and more didactic, than would ordinarily be desirable.
Lastly, whether a liturgical, or a didactic, portion of Scripture be chosen, it should be congruous with the general tone of the services. If, for example, the attention of the audience is to be directed, in the sermon, to an encouraging, cheering, or joyful subject, the psalm selected should be one of thanks giving. To preface a sermon of such a character, with a mournful and penitential psalm, would be inapposite, and would defeat the end in view. The passage to be read, should be carefully chosen, and carefully perused, beforehand, by the preacher. He should never look up his Scripture lessons, in the pulpit.
2. The choice of Hymns is the second topic, under the head of Liturgies. The principal directions, which we mention, for securing an excellent selection, are the following. First, the clergyman must acquire a correct knowledge of the nature of lyric poetry. Many educated men are deficient in a thorough understanding of this species. Epic and dramatic poetry absorb the interest of students, to the neglect of lyric. They are more familiar with Homer, Shakspeare, and Milton, than with Pindar, and Burns. This is owing, partly, to the fact that, as a species, lyric poetry is of a lower grade, than epic or dramatic, and has engaged less eminent poetic powers. But, after allowing that the epic and the drama are loftier performances than the ballad and the song, and that the genius of Pindar and Burns is not equal to that of Homer and Shakspeare, it is still true that lyric poetry does not, commonly, receive that degree of attention from educated men, which its intrinsic excellence and importance deserve. For, in some respects, the lyric comes nearer to the ideal perfection of poetry, than any other species. As works of art, as exquisitely complete wholes, the hymns of Pindar stand at the head of human compositions. The range of thought is very limited, it is true, in the lyrical ode, but this permits the poet to impart an ideal completeness, and finish, to it, that are not to be found in works that are more extended in their range. We never shall see a perfect epic, or a perfect drama, because of the variety and amount of the contents. But, the hymns of Pindar, and the odes of Horace, if they are not absolutely perfect, do yet, it is universally conceded, approach so near to the ideal, that he should possess the very highest aesthetic culture who presumes to assert their imperfection, and ventures to attempt to make good his assertion, by pointing out defects.
The clergyman must devote a proper attention' to this species of poetry, in order to know, both by natural feeling and cultivated instinct, what is lyrical, and what is not. This kind of verse is made to be sung. Other species have no special connection with music; but this is nothing, unless it can be set to tune. That poetry which is not fitted to be accompanied-with the human voice, and the musical instrument, is not lyrical. Tried by this test, much poetry which bears this name is not worthy of it. It is too didactic, or it is not the expression of feeling, or it may be emotive, yet not a tuneful utterance of emotion. The preacher must, therefore, understand the general subject of lyric poetry. He ought to familiarize his mind, with the best specimens in Ancient and in Modern literature, and with the most philosophic and genial criticism upon them. He should study the odes of Pindar and Horace, for the sake of the perfusive grace, the high artistic finish, and, in the instance of Pindar, the impassioned fire and energy. He should study the Old English Ballads, not so much for their artistic merits, as for their simplicity, artlessness, and heartiness. He should study the little gushes of song, that are scattered like gems here and there, in the pages of Shakspeare; wonderful composi
tions, which, in the midst of the complexity and combinations of the mighty drama, strike the mind, very much as the sweet liquid notes of the human voice fall upon the ear, in the lull of the tumult of the orchestra,—musical as golden bells heard in the silence of the band. He should study the songs of Burns, until he feels their immeasurable superiority to the artificial sentiment, and melody of Thomas Moore.
In the second place, while seeking this knowledge of the nature of lyric poetry from profane literature, the clergyman should examine, very carefully, the lyric poetry of the Christian Church. Doctor Johnson has asserted that devotional poetry not only does not please, but, from the nature of the case, cannot please. Probably, this is the greatest blunder ever made by a critic. For what judgment could be more erroneous, than that religious feeling, the purest and highest form of emotion, is incompatible with a melodious utterance of itself. The fact that, universally, the higher we ascend in the scale of existence, the more rhythmical, melodious, and harmonious, we find every thing becoming, would lead to the exactly contrary judgment, and to the affirmation that the sacred ode is, in its own nature, as much superior to the secular, as the ideas of eternity are grander than those of time, and the emotions of heaven higher than those of earth.
The preacher must begin the study of sacred lyrics, by imbuing his mind with the spirit of Hebrew poetry. If a man like Milton drew inspiration from this source, for the purposes of his merely human art, most certainly should the preacher go to it for liturgical culture. The lyric writers of the Christian C.hurch have been distinguished for excellence, in proportion as they have reproduced the Hebrew Psalter, in the forms of modern metrical composition. The finest hymns of Watts are Hebrew, in their matter and spirit. Modern poetry, it is true, exhibits a variety in its forms, that renders it a more complex and elaborate portion of literature, than Hebrew poetry; but it is far inferior to the Hebrew, in respect to the lyrical tone,—especially that solemn lyrical tone, which alone is suited to the sanctuary. The modern poet must go to the song of Deborah, and the psalms of David, for triumphant and jubilant praise, for the "seven-fold chorus of hallelujahs, and harping symphonies."
Next in order, the preacher ought to study the hymns of the Patristic, and the Mediaeval Church. His examination of these should be discriminating, as his examination of the Fathers and the Schoolmen themselves, should be. The modern theologian and preacher, too generally, has committed an error in regard to this portion of Christian history. He has either neglected these ages altogether, or else he has devoted an exclusive and extravagant attention to them. Both of these periods belong to the history of the Christian Church, and, as such, iu their proper place, deserve and challenge the atten
tion of the Modern. They contain, as every thing human does, a mixture of truth and error; and, probably, a more confused and remarkable mixture than other ages. This characteristic appears in their Hymnology. Some of the Greek hymns of Synesius, for example, are a mixture of pantheism and theism. The piercing wail of guilt, and cry for mercy, is blended with the dim and dreamy worship of mere naturalism. Much of the later devotional poetry of the Latin Church, is vitiated by Mariolatry and saint worship. But such grand chants as the Gloria in excelsis, and the Te Deum. laudamus, if frequently read and meditated in the sounding and rhythmical Latin, lift up the mind for praise and adoration, like the pealing tones of an organ, and impart a craving for simple and lofty verse, in the sanctuary. The solemn majesty and mystery of the Trinity, as expressed in the hymns of Hilary and Ambrose, awe the soul in profound reverence and self-abasement; while the earnest and vivid Christology of St. Bernard, imbues the heart with a tender and precatory feeling. The two greatest lyrics of the Mediaeval Church, are the Stabat Mater and the Dies irce. The former exhibits too much of the peculiar doctrine of Romanism, in combination with gospel truth, to be expressive of a pure religious feeling; but the Dies irce is a most spiritual utterance of human guilt, without any reference to the intercession of the saints, or of the Virgin Mother. This latter hymn is worthy of the frequent perusal of any Protestant. It is sometimes employed in Protestant services, on the Continent of Europe. Tholuck, in a note to one of his sermons, alludes to the sensation produced by the singing of this hymn, in the University Church at Halle, and remarks, that "the impression which was made by the last words, as sung by the University choir alone, will be forgotten by no one." An American clergyman who happened to be present on this occasion, says that "it was impossible to refrain from tears, when, at the seventh stanza, all the trumpets ceased, and the choir, accompanied by a softened tone of the organ, sung those touching lines:
Quid sura miser tuncdicturus?
Quern patronum rogaturus,
Cum vix Justus sint securus?"
The Hymnology of the German Church is extremely rich. Some of the hymns of Luther, and Paul Gerhard, stand second to none in all the Christian centuries. But the English Hymnology must, of course, receive most attention from the preacher, in order to a proper liturgical cultivation. It is the product of that English mind in whose characteristics he shares, and belongs to that English literature which has done more than any other, to make and mould him, intellectually, and morally. There is much religious poetry, and some of it lyric, composed by the writers of Elizabeth's age, that deserves constant and careful perusal. The works of Spenser, Raleigh, Ben Jonson, Herbert, Vaughn, Herrick, Drummond, and Milton, contain devotional hymns of high merit, both as respects matter and form; and he who looks through a collection of English poetry, like that of Chalmers, for example, will be surprised to discover, here and there, a religious lyric breathing a most penitential or adoring spirit, in the very midst of the most earthly and perhaps erotic poetry.1
The Hymn-Book of the Church to which he ministers should, however, receive most of the clergyman's study. After deducting all the prosaic matter that is to be found in it, there still remains a large remainder of genuine lyric poetry. With this the preacher ought to be intimately familiar, occasionally enlivening his own discourse, with a glowing, or a swelling, or a thrilling stanza, and always selecting for purposes of worship, those hymns which, while they give vivid and vital expression to Christian emotions and affections, also " voluntary move harmonious numbers." That acquaintance with the denominational Hymn.Book, and that deep interest in it, which are seen in the Methodist clergy and the Methodist Church, deserve to be imitated by all. It is a much safer, and more truly rational interest, than that which some clergies and denominations show towards formularies of worship. The hymns of Charles Wesley, the sweet singer of Methodism, have done much towards the production of that peculiar intensity of the religious life in Methodism, which led Chalmers to define it, as " Christianity in earnest." By thus studying the Hymnology of the Church,—of the Jewish, and the entire Christian Church,—the preacher is to obtain that taste and feeling for sacred lyric poetry, which will guide him, as by a sure instinct, to the choice of the best and most appropriate hymns.
1 Hekeiok, and Dbummond of Hawthornden, afford examples.
Without laying down a rule to be servilely followed, perhaps the choice of hymns for public worship should be somewhat as follows. The first hymn should be one of general praise, serving to inspire feelings of worship and adoration towards God, as the Being to be worshipped. The second may be either of the same character as the first, or, may refer to the discourse which is to follow. The third and lasfrhymn should have this reference. Whether the second hymn should be didactic, or not, will depend upon the character of the sermon. Probably, in the majority of instances, the first and second hymns should be strictly liturgical, offerings of praise and thanksgiving; the last hymn, alone, being didactic and applicatory of the sermon. (J
3. The third topic under the head of Liturgies, /> is Prayer. This subject deserves a fuller treatment, than is possible within these limits. Bishop Wilkins, Dr. Watts, and Witsius, have composed very (sensible treatises upon it, but a good work, suited
to the wants of those Protestant churches which use extemporaneous prayers, is still a desideratum. The following rules involve, perhaps, the principal points to be regarded by the clergyman, in his public petitions.
First, he ought to study method in prayer, and observe it. A prayer should have a plan, as much as a sermon. In the recoil from the formalism of written and read prayers, Protestants have not paid sufficient attention to an orderly, and symmetrical structure, in public supplications. Extemporaneous prayer, like extemporaneous preaching, is too often the product of the single instant, instead of devout reflection, and premeditation. It might, at first glance, seem that premeditation and supplication are incongruous conceptions; that prayer must be a gush of feeling, without distinct reflection. This is an error. No man, no creature, can pray well without knowing what he is praying for, and whom he is praying to. Every thing in prayer, and especially in public prayer, ought to be well considered and well weighed.1
So far as concerns the method, and plan of prayer, in the sanctuary, the following from Bishop Wilkins's treatise, is judicious. The first thing in a form of prayer is the preface: consisting first, of the titles of invocation, together with some brief amplification of them, mostly in Scripture phraseology, sufficient to impress the Divine character, upon the mind both of him who leads, and those who accompany, in public worship; secondly, of some general acknowledgment of personal unworthiness; and, thirdly, of supplication for the Divine assistance, and attention. After this preface, follow the principal parts of prayer: 1, confession; 2, petition; 3, thanksgiving. The order in which these come, is not uniform. There will be transposition, according to circumstances. In some prayers, confession will predominate; in others petition; in others thanksgiving. The preacher should study his prayer, in order that he may vary, and change, with the circumstances in which he is called to officiate. Some clergymen pray but one prayer, through their whole ministry. It contains just so much preface, and just so much confession, petition, and thanksgiving, and always in the same order. In reality, it is a form, which is repeated from habit and memoriter. It is destitute of the excellences of written prayers, and yet is as monotonous, and uniform, as they are.
1 Chalmers was accustomed, offer. See Appendix B. to the occasionally, to write out the second volume of his Life, prayer in full, which he was to
Secondly, the clergyman must avoid verbiage and repetition, in prayer. "Vain repetitions" are denounced by our Saviour, and although he probably referred primarily, to conscious and intended repetitions, the spirit of his direction would exclude that thoughtless, and indolent reiteration of the Fame thoughts, which is one of the principal faults in extemporaneous prayers. It is better to stop, even before the time allotted to prayer has expired, than to attempt to fill it up with verbiage. In this connection, the habit of didactically discoursing in prayer, should be guarded against. The suppliant for the Divine mercy, sometimes turns into the instructor of the Divine omniscience. The clergyman should ever remember that God "knows what we have need of, before we ask Him," and not enlarge, and explain to Him. No one can do this, while under a realizing sense of the character of Him, with whom he has to do. It is only when the clergyman forgets God, and addresses the congregation, that the prayer degenerates into a sermon. Thirdly, the preacher must study directness in matter, and manner. This does not imply familiarity, but simple earnestness, in the creature's address to the throne of grace. Familiarity is the worst of faults in prayer. Circumlocution, paraphrase, and repetition, are not so reprehensible, as an irreverent approach to the Eternal Jehovah. On the contrary, a direct address to God is commanded, and is proper, in the creature. The suppliant should first know clearly what he needs, and what he wants, and the more importunate his entreaty, the more immediate his petition for it, the more appropriate and acceptable is his prayer. One chief reason why supplication for spiritual blessings, such as the conversion of men, is not answered, lies in the fact, that too often there is no clear understanding of the
nature of the blessing, and no direct petition for it. That Being who searches the heart, and knows the entire conscionsness of the man in the attitude of prayer, sees that there is no distinct conception of the thing implored, therefore no strong desire, and therefore no strong cry and supplication. Such a prayer is continually discoursing about the topic, or enlarging upon the blessing, but does not aftJc for it. "Ask," really ask, "and ye shall
The clergyman should not only school himself in respect to this point, but he should school his church likewise. A word upon this topic, though not strictly in place, in this connection, may perhaps be allowable. There is nothing which infuses such life into the prayer-meeting, as earnestness and directness. In times of awakened religious feeling, this characteristic appears. The same blessings that have been the subject matter of prayer, for many years it may be, are still prayed for; there is no great change in the general phraseology of the petitioners; but their minds are awake, and they now know what they need, and what they desire, and a direct, earnest, and comparatively brief prayer is the consequence. The clergyman, by his own example, and if need be by precept, should seek to impress this characteristic upon his church, so that the assemblings together for meditation and prayer may be efficacious means of grace, and of blessing. He ought to cultivate, in the 'minds and hearts of
Christians, a disposition to be distinct, direct, sincere, and brief, in supplication.
In this way, the number of those who participate in this exercise, will become much greater than it now is. The entire church will pray, instead of a few persons; there will be more variety in the petitions, and more pertinency in them; and, through the action and reaction of mind upon mind, greater fervor and sincerity will mark the devotional services of the Christian brotherhood.
We have thus passed rapidly over the department of Liturgies; touching upon those principal topics which are connected with worship, as distinguished from discourse, or address, to the audience. The subject deserves special attention, from the clergy of a simple ritual. The impressiveness, and effectiveness of non-liturgical worship, must depend, mainly, upon the taste and judgment of the individual clergyman. He has no fixed, and imposing forms, by which to be guided, inevitably, in the conduct of public worship. He, therefore, specially needs a judicious discipline, in this direction,—a liturgical culture obtained in the general mannei that has been indicated. The clergyman, then, carries his rule with him. He has an unwritten liturgy, in his own cultivated and pure taste, which he is at perfect liberty to vary, with times and circumstances. One who has acquired this true liturgical sense and feeling, will render the services of the sanctuary impressive, by their appropriateness, by
ir symmetry, and by that unity which n to be the inmost essence of beauty, wing away the attention of the cone om more important matters, as a formal ar * ntual is apt to do, such a minister will a and spiritual atmosphere, over th
of the sanctuary, more impressi the dim religious light of the cathedra