The Oberlin Evangelist
February 18, 1857
[See Second article below--Ed.]
The following notice of Pres. Finney's preaching in Boston, with general remarks on preaching, comes in the New York Observer from their Boston correspondent. These views of the spirit of the pulpit we regard as eminently just and valuable.--[Ed.]
It is now several weeks since Rev. Charles G. Finney commenced a course of evening services in the Park Street Church in this city, which have been held with but little interruption to the present time. How long they will be continued is as yet uncertain. This will probably depend upon the results which follow, and the good which their continuance may seem to promise. Thus far, the effect is thought to have been good, and so far as I can learn, only good. The sermons have probably been identical in substance with those which this distinguished evangelist has preached in many other places, and which have done such signal execution in former years. At least as announced in the papers, the subjects appear to be the same, such as "Robbing God," "Grieving the Spirit," "Looking to Christ," and the like. These are certainly very important topics, and can never become obsolete, so long as men are disposed to live for themselves, stifle the conviction of conscience, and seek salvation on the ground of their own righteousness.
For an hour previous to each of these services, a prayer meeting is held, at which the attendance, though not large, is such as affords much encouragement to those who are present. And the number in attendance is increasing.
His discourses are said to be characterized by simplicity, directness, great tenderness of feeling, and a fulness of the marrow of the gospel. We certainly need such preaching. It is undoubtedly a fault with most of our New England preaching, that it is too predominantly rhetorical. The sermon is prepared with too much comparative reference to its finish and beauty as a mere piece of composition. Any one who has experience as a preacher and writer, can easily understand how a minister in his preparation for the pulpit, may lose sight of the great end of a sermon, which should be the conversion of sinners, and the edification of Christians, and fix his mind on the question, how he shall make a discourse which shall bear the test of the scholar's criticism, or gain for him the reputation of an accomplished and skillful writer. Ministers, like other men, are open to temptation, and at this day, when the intellectual is so much lauded, and the moral and physical left so much out of view, in the popular estimate of a preacher, there is surely danger that ministers will err on this score, and give their people scholarly and finished sermons which shall not convict of sin and lead to Christ. Indeed this evil has already come to pass in many places, and many churches in New England are under the sore affliction. I say not this in a spirit of fault finding; I simply state the fact, which is patent to every careful observer, and of which intelligent laymen frequently complain. They see, they feel that our pulpit ministrations lack simplicity, the earnest simplicity which characterized every intellectual effort that aims at a great and self-engrossing end. Style, ornament, classical allusions, glittering paragraphs, and it may be, a formal logic, all of which are well in their way, take the place of doctrine and of that affectionate exhortation in which lies much of the power of any sermon. The evil is widely deplored, but the difficulty is to get rid of it. We are, say some, in the sophomoric age, and such sophomorism the intelligent and truly cultivated must endure for the sake of those who do not appreciate simplicity and real power in the pulpit, while others hope that a better time is near. One thing is certain, and that is that a general revival of religion which should bring ministers and Christians back to primitive ideas and feelings in regard to the true nature and design of the gospel and all evangelical ministrations, would work in a good degree, the needed change. The truth of God would then be preached in greater simplicity and less of intellectual display, and the people would receive it and love it, and sinners be converted, and the church be edified. And the gospel preached in such simplicity will always be the most fitting and hopeful means of promoting a religious revival.
The Oberlin Evangelist
February 18, 1857
PRESIDENT FINNEY has spent the winter thus far in Boston, Mass. preaching in Park St. church, Rev. A.L. Stone, pastor. From various sources, more or less direct, we learn that the results thus far, while less palpable than last winter in Rochester, are yet hopeful and encouraging. We are not aware how extensively other churches in Boston co-operate in this special effort.
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