Christianity And Social Problems -- By: Z. Swift Holbrook

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 054:214 (Apr 1897)
Article: Christianity And Social Problems
Author: Z. Swift Holbrook


Christianity And Social Problems1

Z. Swift Holbrook

This book has in it so much that is commendable and worthy of praise, that it would be an injustice not to make full and frank acknowledgment at the outset of its freshness, its vigor and originality. Dr. Abbott is far from being a prosaic or platitudinous writer. A preacher who could arouse a continent upon so trite a question as the real meaning of a phrase in the Declaration; or who could stir up, not only the Manhattan Association, but the entire theological world, by a single address on Jonah and the whale, has a mind to be reckoned with in these times of much speaking and cheap printing. To what extent it is possible to become conspicuous by saying outré things from a distinguished pulpit, is not my province here to discuss. Any clergyman, however, is to be commended who does not pass the dead-line of laziness, as Dr. Behrends calls it, and permit his pulpit to lapse into a state of innocuous desuetude, where conservatism degenerates into dry-rot, and “orthodoxy” is like charity in one particular at least, —a mantle that covers a multitude of sins.

No one can accuse Dr. Abbott of being icily regular and splendidly null, as Tennyson expresses it, for he is nothing if not heroic, frank, fearless, unconventional, and always interesting. He reminds one of Dr. Herron in his manner of saying some things so startling and provoking, that,

though he awakens thought, he does it at too great an expense, for it costs him our confidence in his judicial poise. It does not help the matter any to dodge behind Jesus for indorsement and protection, if such an expression may be pardoned. These essays are many of them sermons preached from Plymouth pulpit and, as such, deserve high praise. Many so-called gospel sermons are flat, stale, and unprofitable, simply because they lack intellectual and moral earnestness. They might as well be delivered by a phonograph, for they are not born of hard work, nor do they reflect the individual power or convictions of the preacher. They are not what he thinks, so much as what he thinks he ought to think. They fall flat, not because of people’s hostility to truth, so much as that the audience is simply starving for the truth. There is not a live church in Chicago that is not comfortably filled, and some of them crowded, each Sunday, to hear some good news; and though some eminently respectable churches are dying a natural death, the fault in every instance is found in one word,— dry-rot in the pulpit or mildew in the pews.

Dr. Abbott is to be praised for his earnestness, his push, his enterprise, his fearless attacks on monopolies and trust...

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