The great cathedrals of Europe, built hundreds of years ago-rich, elaborate, vast, mighty-described by Ruskin so beautifully those fair fronts of variegated mosaic, charged with wild fancies and dark hosts of imagery, thicker and quainter than ever filled the depth of midsummer dream; those vaulted gates trellised with close leaves; those window – labyrinths of twisted tracery and starry light; those mighty masses of multitudinous pinnacle and diademed tower”-tell us of the faith and reverence and devoted sacrifices of nations. Church architecture is not always an index of present church life and power. The beauty of a building may remain long after its purity of worship is gone and the beauty of holiness is departed from its members. The church of Rome may have once worshiped in spirit and in truth, but not so now. Like the church at Sardis, it has a name to live, but is dead. A church can keep alive and safe only when its spiritual progress is commensurate with the material. Any religious society may possess the finest architecture, an eloquent preacher, artistic music, pomp of ceremony, yet inculcate false doctrine. A golden cup may contain a deadly drink. As the best advertisement for a store is the stock of goods kept inside, so the best recommendation for a religion is not its art-works, but the heart-works of its adherents. Good doctrine is better than good architecture, if we cannot have both. The finest art will not make holy and useful Christians.
Character-building is more important than church-building. Pure, spotless character is immortal. The most elaborate architecture will pass away. The great cathedrals will all crumble and perish. There are three inscriptions spanning the splendid arches over the triple door-ways of the Milan cathedral. Over one is carved a beautiful wreath of roses, and underneath are the words, “All that which pleases is only for a moment.” Over another is a sculptured cross which reads, “All that which troubles is but for a moment.” The great central entrance in the main aisle has underneath the inscription, “That only is which is eternal.” God’s most beautiful temple is the new, regenerated heart of man. “Ye are God’s building,” and this is the temple that is to last, this is the “building of God, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens. This heart-temple needs no ornaments. “Pare religion needs no art to decorate it. Holiness cannot be made more beautiful than it is. Truth cannot be improved.”
Even religious art may be only an empty display, the heart and soul having taken their departure, as is no doubt true of the Roman church whose besetting sin was a “general extravagance and luxury” of church decoration which reached its climax in the 17th century. The artists of that period were kept busy multi-plying their productions of painting and sculpture to. supply the enormous demand of the churches. As there should not be the mere love of ornate worship, amounting to vanity in religion, so all unnecessary expense and extravagance in church building is wrong. Christianity demands man’s highest art, the best gifts of his genius and skill, but that does not mean wasteful outlay and superfluous ornamentation. The first impression made upon the visitor to God’s sanctuary should not be its expensive materials and lavish display.
On the other hand, a church edifice must not have a cold, bare, and sordid appearance for the want of more ornament in detail. The interior of God’s house should be cheerful in general and beautiful in detail, and especially large and ample in its proportions, and thus in effect and power tending to expand the mind of the beholder. A church building that has a still, monumental, sepulchral appearance only caricatures the gloom-dispelling, joy-producing religion of the gospel. Christ is not dead, but risen. “Be of good cheer” said He to His disciples again and again. Church architecture as well as religious ceremonies may make the mistake of taking on cold and formal aspects. It should be dignified and noble, yet simple in construction. The constructive element must not interfere with the purity and simplicity of the reflective.
We are not among those who would build churches admitting nothing in structure at all except what is wanted essentially, nor do we acknowledge that the only or chief object of architecture is to enclose people or machinery. Some things have a moral use far superior in value to their mere physical utility. We believe that the man is a benefactor who invents beautiful proportions whether in architecture, painting, or sculpture. All decorations of our churches at Easter or Christmas time are an admission of the principle that the beautiful and ornamental are not wholly out of place in God’s house. No work of art is a waste if it expresses some pure thought or lofty idea.
Why not have more beauty to look at” and more subjects for the heart to feel? In erecting churches or residences, why not build ” at once as we need and as we like?”- that is, as our necessity demands and also as our aesthetic taste or sense of beauty dictates. By a little forethought and study, it may cost not a dollar more perhaps to construct what would please and delight us than what would displease and offend us. There is no accounting for taste, and what some people like others seem to dislike; but we often wonder at seeing so many hideous monstrosities in architecture, when the same material and money put into the hands of an architect who has brains, skill, and artistic taste – who has learned the secret of beauty of outline-may be made to build a beautiful as well as convenient and durable house, that would otherwise have been put into a homely, unattractive, and incommodious structure.
A building should be first of all strongly built and convenient-adapted to its purposes. These are the essentials. But this may not engage the fine arts at all. If to the essential we would add the noble, then come the fine arts of sculpture and painting. If the aim is utility and stability alone, these of course must be secured at the smallest possible expense. It is legitimate to build some things for their beauty and majesty, if one has the time, talent, and means. There is hardly a Christian church known to us that is not built higher than is necessary for the absolute need and accommodation of its worshipers. One tclls us that the best architecture is but “a glorified roof.” So to us, unless the roof of a building is right, nothing else seems right about it. We invariably pronounce upon the architectural beauty and symmetry of a church by the appearance of its roof, or spire, or dome. The dignity of a tower is its height. The sublime temple domes, towers, spires, and pinnacles, which faith in God and a desire to please and adore Him have reared throughout the world, are not constructed chiefly for their utility.
What are the great ends of decoration? The first mission of form is to express and convey its use.” Ornament must have a purpose, a decorative power and influence. When every carved flower and bud and leaflet speaks the grateful sentiment of the sculptor’s heart, then such ornaments may be legitimately and luxuriantly bestowed, as on the matchless cathedral of Milan. “Ornament cannot be overcharged if it be good, and is always overcharged when it is bad.” It should have reference to constructive meaning. Ornament for its own sake in matters of religion is the vainest of things. A column not employed as a means of support hardly has a place in church architecture. Expensive sham decorations are out of place in God’s sanctuary. Some parts and intended ornaments of buildings that we have seen had no purpose whether of beauty or utility-they were idle monstrosities. We may learn some things from the old Greek models in architecture. Theirs was an idolatrous religion, yet their sacred temples were not veneered shams, but conscientious, substantial offerings to their gods, and every part had a meaning and use. There was a significance to Greek art; each and every part of their noble structures had a purpose, nor were there any deficiencies or redundances. They showed that it is possible to build sensibly and at the same time artistically, that there is no incompatibility between decorative picturesqueness and the solid and imposing. All worthy ornament has meaning and emphasis.
There should be a “general correspondence between form and use” in church architecture. Form must be subordinate to substance, art should pay tribute to utility, ornament to construction, as in our household furniture, utensils, and secular buildings. ” The great law is, convenience first, and then the noblest decoration possible.” Buildings to be used for practical purposes chiefly should have an eye to convenience in their construction.
Necessity or convenience constructs, the heart decorates. The mere structural parts of a building-its necessary, unadorned, bare walls, beams, rafters, etc., are simply the work of the hands – manufactured, but it is the heart, the higher and spiritual nature that adds or offers anything extra and above what is necessary, in the shape of ornament. The added beauty and adornments of a building, are of the nature of heart-offerings, not required, but free gifts for the sake of affording pleasure and delight. On this point, Mr. Ruskin says, ” Of all facts concerning art, this is the one most necessary to be known, that, while manufacture is thc work of the hands only, art is the work of the whole spirit of man.”
The divine part of a building is its noble, thoughtful, soulful ornament. The eyes and lips are the most expressive portions of the human face divine, and to these the ornamental features of a building correspond. The chief parts, therefore, of a building are not the largest in bulk necessarily, but those most expressive, containing the most thought or mind. A building may be so honestly and well finished that its features are beautiful and full of expression. But thc beauty and harmony of the whole is often sacrificed to a part. It often happens that an over-careful finish or elaboration of details is allowed to destroy the effect of the whole – of the leading thought.
There are in this age dangerous tendencies in church architecture and ornamentation. We entered a certain Christian church and glancing first at the gay, fantastic decorations of the walls, thought the designs must have been borrowed from the theatre. The church is no place for gaudy adornments. Excess of ornamentation is coming to be the fault in modern ecclesiastical architecture. In some buildings, one would think that the architect or artist feared that it would be something indecent if he left bare a single square foot of wall. Over-decoration was the besetting sin of the period in which St. Peter’s cathedral, at Rome, was finished in the seventeenth century, and there seems to be danger of a return of that evil in this day. Profusion of ornament is out of place in church architecture and furnishings. The altar work and pieces especially should be simple, unaffected, and artless, so as not to detract from the worship or distract the attention from the service of God. We have lately been even in certain Protestant churches where almost in spite of ourselves, we found our eye drawn at once to some excrescence or brilliant object, and surveying or criticising some unbecoming, indecorous artistic design -some superfluity about the altar or building. If preachers make mistakes along this line in building their sermons too florid and ornate, and organists in their inappropriate selection of preludes and interludes and postludes, so do church architects and religious artists. Good sense, good taste and great care can alone preserve the necessary dignity of God’s sanctuary.
How to make and keep our worship spiritual is the question. Everything must be excluded from the house of God that would obscure or hinder our approach to Him. The heart-door must not be left open for every intruder to enter. The human mind is naturally inattentive and wandering, and the eye loves to busy itself tracing and watching forms and gazing about in a church, and every fantastically finished room only feeds this morbid curiosity. God’s temples have often been so overloaded with mechanical ornament as to corrupt religious taste and degrade worship. There must be simplicity, sincerity, fitness, and withal, significance-a reason why. That is not an adornment but a monstrosity that is stuck on without purpose or connection, no matter how fine and rich in itself.
We do not object to decorating our churches with the beauties of colored glass, of sculptured marble, and noble paintings, that serve to honor the Deity rather than misrepresent and degrade Him in our conception. No attempt, however, should ever be made to portray or represent Deity Himself. Bible inscriptions over the alcove and altar doubtless affect and aid the worshipers. It is well to adorn church windows with biblical scenes and subjects. We would employ the highest art in appropriately adorning the doors, columns, ceilings, walls, pulpits, altars, baptismal fonts,. and sacred vessels of God’s sanctuary. Let there be the very perfection of composition and execution – the deep religious spirit dominating all; at the same time guarding against mere show, undue profusion and extravagance, and aiming to secure such artistic perfection and substantial merit as to win and elevate the soul to a higher appreciation of God, the Good, the True, and the One altogether lovely, who would be worshiped in spirit and in truth, and in the beauty of holiness.
Among the most appropriate ornaments for Christian churches we would designate those of a monumental character-statues, busts, bas-reliefs and pictures of founders, great leaders and benefactors. What harm can result from such memorials to great and good men and women who deserved so well of their church as to have their blessed name and example perpetuated to coming generations and enshrined in the hearts of children’s children! We may embalm in art-in bronze, in sculpture, and painting, the lives of the great and good; yea, we may erect a church edifice itself as a monument to some worthy philanthropist, heroic saint of God, or martyr to the Christian faith, and give it his fragrant name, if all is done in the all-prevailing name of Christ and to the glory of God the Father. We see no harm in putting beautiful memorial windows and stones in a church, with a modicum of commemorative high art works as above named, but we seriously doubt the propriety of disfiguring the interior of churches with such a profusion of tombs, tablets, shrines, and showy altars, as may be seen in Westminster Abbey and certain other Old World cathedrals.
Some buildings have a style that will not bear ornament, just as some women are so fair and beautiful by nature that the least ornament only mars their appearance. The rose is not improved by paint. The venerable Ex-Premier Gladstone said in a recent address: ‘ The man who wants to know what is beauty in stone -beauty not produced by ornamentation-should visit Salisbury, for there he will see less ornamentation on the exterior of the building than in any cathedral, and, I believe, in a great many domestic houses in London. But if you want to see what can be done by simple beauty of outline, which is the foundation of all beauty, take a look at the exterior of Salisbury Cathedral. It is a model for all ages and for all countries.”
For a long period during the earlier days of Protestants they abjured religious art decoration and entertained generally a strong prejudice against paintings in churches. But there is a much worse form of ornament for churches often seen in these days than ornamental architecture, ornate worship and artistic representations-it is the disgraceful ornament of a mortgage or debt on God’s house! There are people who would be horror-stricken to see a beautiful painting or statue in a church, but who will quietly allow an accursed, hideous old debt to linger year after year in the sanctuary crushing out the spiritual life and peace of that church, while they have the whercwith in their power and in their sordid pockets to wipe out of existence that foul debt at a single blow. There is not a more beautiful ornament for any church than that rarc jewel of consistency. Ruskin has a word to say also on this kind of an ornament, for, on being asked recently for a contribution towards paying off a church debt, he replied, Starve and go to heaven, but don’t borrow. Try begging first. I don’t mind, if really needed, stealing; but don’t buy things you can’t pay for. Pious people building churches they can’t pay for is the most detestable nonsense to me.”
Mortgages are so commonly mentioned now in connection with churches that a strauger in this country might think them to be among the latest improvements. We do not believe that God is pleased with the dedication of church debts and mortgages to Him. Such deformities on his sacred houses must be an abomination to Him who says “pay that thou owest.”
May we not judge of the amount or value of a man’s religion by the interest he takes in supporting the church, in keeping it free from debt and dirt, and in good repair? So when church architecture runs to mere cheap surface ornamentation and showy exterior decoration, is it not an index of a superficial and vain religion? A religion that costs nothing is good for nothing. Many modern church societies proposing to erect a new building seem to adopt the plan – how to make the greatest show at the least cost. This tendency is both sad and alarming. We are almost tempted to ask Why do many men now build churches? Is it for the glory of God, or for self-glorification-in honor of them-selves?
It is charged that there is now very little of the old-time self-denying spirit of true sacrifice in building and sustaining God’s houses,-not that elaborate and costly temples are not now dedicated nominally to God, but that these offerings are made less in a devotional spirit than with an ostentatious, self-pleasing, and extravagant motive. It is charged, too, that many fine churches are being built in this generation not so much for God’s honor as for man’s glory and selfish gratification-sort of fashionable Sunday club-houses where ungodly multitudes assemble for pulpit and choir entertainment, for the display of the latest styles in dress, and for social pleasure and mutual admiration. Are such serious complaints altogether groundless? A glance at the meagre showing of conversions as well as contributions to missions and other church benevolences will soon convince one that some societies, after building a fine church, will then rest supinely, admiring their own work, hardly giving anything further to God’s cause, and contenting themselves by saying, If the Lord docs not think we have done a mighty fine thing for Him, He is mistaken. A keen observer has lately written that “the sacred precincts of the temple may become the lurking place of a subtle and powerful spirit of evil whose influence is far-reaching. There may be hidden under the guise of fine artistic feeling or other delicately tasteful robes a selfishness as intense as any which obtrudes itself in coarser or more offensive garments. What seems on the surface to be an offering of precious gifts to Deity may be in its real spirit only like the burning of incense for ourselves to inhale.”
The chief end of man is to please and glorify God, not to gratify self. We are not to sit down idly in the elegantly upholstered pews of our magnificent churches built more to please our aesthetic taste and glorify our darling creed than for God’s honor and man’s salvation. It is possible for a grand cathedral to be only a grand chariot filled with dead formalists and idolaters being carried to destruction. You may ornament and bedeck a grave as much as you please, it is a grave still. It is very fitting that the ground plan of a Christian church should, like St. Peter’s at Rome, have the shape of a cross, but neither that nor a cross crowning a church spire always implies a cross-bearing church.
God looks at the giving rather than the gift. It is the spirit of our gifts that makes them valuable with God. We may, therefore, well ask, what is the spirit which dictates fine church building and architecture? Is it denominational pride, rivalry, self-glorification, or an incipient, disguised idolatry – a worship of materials wrought into beautiful forms and outlines? Worldly men from mercenary motives may erect costly churches to enhance the value of their private property in the town or vicinity, or perhaps, hoping more to keep their own souls out of perdition than from any thought of serving God and securing heaven. Alas! worshipers need not think to add to their hope of heaven by increasing the height of their church tower. Sometimes exceedingly high towers take a tumble like that of Babel, especially when built in a spirit of rivalry and human pride rather than with true religious aspiration and sentiment. Vanity is often confounded with religion, and when religion once becomes a vain thing, how great is that vanity!
Let us, then, avoid lavishing our attention and moneys upon the material embellishments of the sanctuary to the neglect of the temple of the heart and body, too; for it is possible in our desire to enrich the ceilings and roofs of our costly temples to forget that the poor around us must have a cover for their head from the storm and cold, and food for their bodies as well as souls.
We fear that there are self-styled churches today that are only a bad kind of contrivance set up in place of a church, a sort of club that is more in sympathy with the world and fellowship with publicans and sinners than with the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus predicted that such pretenders should arise and deceive many. We can never hope to save the world by agreeing with it, by simply trying to please it with aesthetics in art and architecture or with anesthetics in doctrine. Nothing will be gained by building ” fine lounging places, where rich men and women will pay heavy prices to sit in a finely upholstered pew, to listen to flowery sermons which are not to touch upon their vices, follies, and sins, but to soothe them in their weakness and wickedness in the pathway to perdition.”
May we not have a correct standard of judgment and taste in church-building and sacred architecture? There are many builders, but few architects. Christianity now affords a field for whole schools of true and noble artists. It is claimed that all true architects must also be sculptors and painters or have their gifts.
What is a fine church bat a work of fine art? The great cathedrals of Europe are really sculptured marble from the crypt to top of tower or spire. Must we have only architects who have studied in Italy, or do we need imported Italian artists any more than we need imported priests? We may reproduce all that was noble and beautiful in Italy and Greece and other countries so far as it is worthy of imitation and befitting the Christian religion, but we have reason to fear that there is in these days too much devotion to the antique. A recent writer says: We continue building our houses of worship after medieval models in which no sermon was ever delivered, models which were built for spectacular service, and not for homiletic use. There are churches in this country which cost from $200,000 to $300,000 which are only torture chambers for preachers. Every possible principle of acoustics is violated in our ordinary church architecture. No player could nightly perform in a theater constructed as are our churches and live out half his days. Size has nothing to do with it, for the largest church building in Chicago is the easiest one to speak in. Fame and fortune await the architect who shall invent a wholly new style of ecclesiastical architecture which shall at once satisfy the devotional feeling and be adapted to public speaking. The cathedral fulfils the first condition; the theater the second; neither fulfils both.”
A church built after plans in use in former years may not be adapted to our modern demands. The character and methods of church work have now greatly changed, – not that the Gospel message or man’s spiritual needs have varied in the least, but the conditions of man-kind and of society have so changed that the church must show an interest in all social reforms,- in temperance, and every educational and philanthropic movement. The church that still confines its efforts to distinctively religious work, irrespective of Good Samaritan work, or of man’s temporal, intellectual and moral necessities, is justly looked upon as a back number.
A Christian society about to build a church should not only first sit down and count the cost so as not to finish it off with a mortgage, but should also carefully consider the various needs and requirements of the particular congregation and community among whom it is to be located. Utility or adaptibility to social conditions, comfort, good taste,- are all considerations that should guide in the construction.
First of all, it should not be forgotten that a Christian church is a house of worship, a place where the people – all the people without respect of persons, purse, condition, or calling, may, if they please, assemble to receive religious instruction and to unite in God’s worship as the Great Father of all.
We believe that there should be a certain order of Christian architecture that shall indicate its sacred purpose and correspond to the object for which Christian churches are built. An ordinary house of worship may be much better under some circumstances and in certain places than an extraordinary one. A church should be so built as to be adapted in size and artistic appliances to the number, character, and culture of the people who will probably be its attendants. It would be unwise and injurious to force upon a congregation of rude, illiterate people a highly intellectual and elaborate service or cultured adornment that would in no manner appeal to or express their simple religious ideas and feelings, however sanctioned by historical use or conducive to the profitable worship of more refined congregations. Under stress of circumstances, of poverty and persecution perhaps, God has in all ages and lands condescended to meet his own children” in any and every place however rude or ungainly or incommodious. Christ was born in a stable, and many a time He has met to bless his poor persecuted followers in caves, dens, or dismal catacombs, and the pioneer Christians in barns and leafy groves. But there is an eternal fitness in things, and if we are to expect the Triune King of heaven – the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to come down and meet us in these days of wealth, culture, refinement and luxury, we must pro-vide a worthy meeting-place. Would it not be irreligious rudeness, if not profaneness and irreverence, for us now to pretend to show our devotional homages to Almighty God, by daring to erect and dedicate to His holy service uncomely, squalid, or sordid places of worship, rather than those that have ample capacity, durability, and such stateliness, splendor and completeness in all their appointments as we can afford?
In church-building enterprises, every society should not hesitate to assert its own peculiar needs and character and opportunities. Each denomination may properly prefer a style of its own in some details, best adapted to its characteristic forms of service, to common sense uses, to the special plans and purposes of its adherents. Church architecture may be made either the handmaid or the hindrance of true religion and philanthropy.
Large plain churches are better for the masses, especially in the neglected quarters of great cities. A sensible writer says, “We want immense halls, with vast rooms for preaching, feeding the poor, instructing the young, giving reading rooms to the inquiring, and clothing to the naked poor. They must be warmed, well-lighted, well seated, and at least twice every day well filled to hear the word of the Gospel.” Everyone, old and young alike, should feel that they have a church-home. Many a modern church is hardly like home in any particular. Time was when the home and the church were one and the same. Can that church be called home-like that is only open three or four hours in a whole week, though it cost hundreds of thousands? “A commercial house costing a quarter of a million, open for business for three hours a week, would bankrupt itself in short order.”
The ordinary church service in cities is no longer attractive to thousands of people. A church now-adays to “draw” must furnish more or less entertainment or sensation.. It is thought that there must be a big chorus or orchestra or noted singer or player or star preacher. It has become a serious question whether the church of Christ does not sacrifice a measure of its dignity and worth when it adds entertainment to worship. May we not well inquire whether the, orthodox Christian church will be able to hold its own, indeed, very long if it goes on resorting more and more to highly ornate and dilletante styles of worship, expensive quartette choirs, clerical dudes, emasculated sermons, concessions in theology, rented pews, etc. If the church which the gracious Redeemer of mankind founded with his blood is to abandon its original, aggressive, revival, evangelizing spirit and policy and go into the ” social religious club or musical and literary entertainment business,” can it expect that He will do otherwise than remove its candlestick?
We would not be misunderstood. Our strictures should be applied only where they belong. There must be a golden mean to be drawn somewhere. It can hardly be denied that the Christian church may properly make more or less concession to the senses. The old conventionalities of austere orthodox forms, the ” torturesome primitive meeting-houses,” have long ago taken their departure. “Straight-laced” churches are now obsolete. Hard seats and horrible singing with their accompaniment of literal hell-fire preaching, have given place to a religion that tells of the love of God first and the terrors of the law afterwards, if necessary, and that He does not hate men or consign any class to hell, even before they are born – a religion that comforts the body and exalts the soul by pleasing the eye and the ear and thereby reaching and winning the heart. The grand theme of modern preaching is the love of God and the joys of the Redeemer’s Kingdom,-
” Who has for all a ransom paid, For all a full atonement made.”
The church is coming to see that men must be caught before they are converted. There may be a wholesome sensation and innocent devices to draw men to God’s service and sanctuary. Christ said to his desciples, “I will make you fishers of men.” The saints of God are not to sit still and allow the children of this world to-be wiser and outwit them. As the theatres employ all the fine arts to make them more enticing, and the stores have their attractive show windows, and we make our-dwellings more homelike and inviting by pictures and embroidered curtains, so who shall say that we may not add innocent attractions to the churches-the dwelling-places of Him who made all the beauties and glories of the universe? There is no religion or sense in supposing that the children of light must burn a Sunday kerosene lamp in the church while the children of darkness illuminate their saloons nightly with incandescent bulbs.” Why do we paint our church edifices within and without? Does any one object to our tastefully painting the windows, the walls, the pews, and even the pulpit-and all to please the eye and make the place more attractive? And why may not the choir by study and practice strive to make their appropriate musical selections attractive also. Yea, why may not the preacher make his pulpit attractive in all that which wins the heart and leads to the soul’s salvation-attractive by reason of the truth being presented in beautiful and inviting language and illustrations, and enforced with a logic and eloquence and earnestness that are irresistible?
People will go to church where the preacher feeds them with a thoughtful and soulful Gospel and shows that he has studied how to be master of the art of expression. Many Gospel ministers understand well their message, but they do not seem to know how to deliver it attractively. The average modern hearer has a good ear for a trained voice and distinct articulation and no eye for pulpit clowns, and he prefers now to drink water from cut-glass rather than from a pewter cup. When that prince of pulpit orators, Charles H. Spurgeon, was asked how he managed to keep his church filled with people, he replied, ” I fill the pulpit and the people fill the pews.” God’s lightning prefers good conductors. If the preacher, without careful as well as prayerful preparation, opens his mouth, it will be filled -with wind. Oratory is a fine art-the “key to power,” and sacred oratory the greatest power among men. This pulpit art should be cultivated by all possible preparation. Neither inspiration or genius can always be relied upon. It will not do to mistake perspiration for inspiration nor inflammation for information. What is genius but the soil that, left unfilled, will run to weeds! ” There is no genius but hard work,” said the great artist, Turner. Jesus was a master of the art of commanding men with his voice, and he would now call into his modern pulpits not more, but better trained men.
Eloquence is not a lost art. The gift of powerful and pursuasive speaking, of inspiring devotion, and of compelling the applause and homage of listeners by force and grace of oratory, did not die with Demosthenes. True oratory appeals to the emotions of men as well as to their reason. The triumph of the orator is in capturing the hearts of men by his knowing how to say things, by his skilful ability to put into charming language the best expression of sentiments. Machine politicians, party manipulators, and all the sagacious champions of other favorites, are seen to be powerless before the irresistible sway of the impassioned orator’s symmetrical sentences, fresh phrases, striking similes, and thrilling peroration. The most attractive ornament about every Christian church should be the eloquent oracle of God who stands in the pulpit.