Tuesday, April 12, 2011
"New thought is admirable when it is proved true thought, but we must not be in too great haste to vouch for it. Rev. E. E. Hale is fond of telling the story that a classmate who graduated with him at Harvard took for a thesis "The Established Truths of Science." I have forgotten how many were named, but I remember Mr. Hale said that every one of them had since been exploded.
After listening to a masterly essay by one of our eminent thinkers and scholars on the various schools of thought,— theological, metaphysical, philosophical, from Augustine to Parker,— and hearing him say that the net result to mankind was little more than a clearer conception of the Golden Rule, I felt quite reconciled to my loss in not having been a metaphysician or philosopher, since I inherited the Golden Rule as my Christian birthright.
I repeat, then, that the object of preaching is not speculative, but moral and spiritual. This is the only kind of preaching that wears, even in our liberal Church. Many societies have been started among us and run bravely for a time, but soon run out, because the souls of the people were not fed,— because the preaching was so exclusively theoretical, dealing with the thought-problems of the age, and leaving its heart and life untouched. There will always be a few people who like this kind of preaching; and, when others in the congregation begin to drop off, they will tickle the minister's vanity with the suggestion that these uncultured folk cannot appreciate such high ideas. It is only the gods that flourish on ambrosia! In the mean time, the empty churches or halls are closed, and the ground lies fallow, until some one comes with a real evangel to preach,— with real bread from heaven, not all yeast, but bread for the nourishment of the soul's life. Then the withered plant revives again. It is so every time and everywhere, and will be so long as man has a religious nature which craves sustenance and strength."