Place Of The Pulpit In Modern Life And Thought -- By: Newell Dwight Hillis
BSac 55:219 (July 1898) p. 397
Place Of The Pulpit In Modern Life And Thought
Having lingered long in foreign climes and countries, Plutarch returned home to affirm that he had found cities without walls, without literature, without coin or kings; peoples who knew not the forum, the theater, or gymnasium; “but,” added the traveler, “there never was, nor shall there ever be, a city without temple, church, or chapel.” Since Plutarch’s time many centuries have come and gone, yet for thoughtful men the passing years have only strengthened the conviction that not until cities are hung in the air, instead of founded upon rock, can the ideal commonwealth be established or maintained without foundations of morals and religion. Were it possible for the ancient traveler to come forth from his tomb, and, moving slowly down the aisles of time, to step foot into the scene and city midst which we now do dwell, he would find that, in the influence of religious teachers upon liberty, literature, art, and industry, that would fully justify the reassertion of the conviction expressed so many centuries ago. Indeed, many students of the rise and reign of the common people make the history of social progress to be very
BSac 55:219 (July 1898) p. 398
largely the history of those teachers who have lifted up before men Christian ideals and principles, as beacon lights for the human race.
Standing before the Cathedral of Wittenberg, Jean Paul uncovered his head and said, “The story of the German language and literature is the story of Martin Luther’s pulpit.” Webster through stately oration, Rufus Choate through impassioned address, James Anthony Froude through polished essay, have alike affirmed that the town-meeting and our representative government go back to that little pulpit in the Swiss city of Geneva. In the realm of literature, also, it is highly significant that Macaulay and Morley declare ‘that Shakespeare, Milton, and Tennyson received their literary instrument as a free gift from those monks named Cadmon and Bede, and those pastors who gave us the King James version of the Bible. Modern sermons may have become “dry as dust,” yet the time was when the English pulpit united the functions of lecture-hall and library, newspaper and book. For the beginning of our Saxon speech, Müller and Whitney take us back to the cloisters and chapels of old England. But Addison affirmed that the sermons of two preachers, Tillotson and Barrow, were the standards of perfection in English writing, and projected a dictionary that had for its authority the words and phrases used in the writings of these two preachers, whom the essayist thought had shaped English speech and literature. Lord Chatham once referred the dignity and eloquence of his style to the ...
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