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a more vigorous ordeal. The pulpit meets a million-armed rival in the press; the preacher, a popular competitor in the perambulating lecturer. The best authors are now found in most of our homes; the best seed grain of the age, (not without a large per centage of tares, however,) is sown broadcast in the daily journals; and the leading statesmen and men of letters offer their richest thoughts, crystalized into a lecture, to the obscurest rural auditory. Since our parishes are permitted to banquet with kings, is it surprising that they esteem country ministers, like the writer of this paper, indifferent caterers? There is some difference, however, between the care required to get up a choice dinner once a year, and that which is involved in feeding a pampered household two or three times a week. It is very unfair to the preacher to compare the sermon which he was obliged to write in two days, and for which he is paid some ten dollars, with the literary lecture whose composition occupied a fortnight, and whose remuneration is counted by thousands of dollars. A series of average sermons may seem tame, compared with a series of able editorial articles; but it is only an act of justice to remember, that, while our weary brain has been drilled for the former, under numerous interruptions and deprivations, a whole staff of writers have contributed to the latter, with every aid that overflowing resources could furnish.

The advancing taste of cultivated communities seems to justify the demand for improvement in the quality of preaching. But, if the preachers yield one point, congregations should yield another. If the QUALITY be enhanced, the QUANTITY must be diminished. On this position we plant ourselves, before our people. We will try to improve the color, since you seem to require it, but we shall not give you so much canvas. We will weave the tissue a little more compactly, but you must not expect so many yards of cloth.

The fact is, the intellectual demand made upon preachers, by the ecclesiastical and parochial customs of this country, is out of all proportion with what is expected of other men who conjure a livelihood out of their brains. To write two sermons a week, one must compose twelve hundred pages a year, equal to two volumes of Prescott's Histories, and, if these productions range over a liberal variety of topics, and

are treated with even respectable ability, they comprise a monument of diligence that might dignify an exclusively literary career. It is said that the fame of a lawyer will grow with only one powerful plea in a year; but, unless a preacher produces at least one superior sermon a month, he will never be heard of beyond his own parish-unless the report of his dismissal goes further, or his name is heralded by some quack who has treated the poor man's pulmonary or bronchial difficulties. From a philosophical point of view, it is evident that a man should write only when his mind acts spontaneously, impelled by an interior force, quickened by an irrepressible vivacity. When the fluids of the brain, that turn the wheels of thought, are full to the brim, a man writes as he breathes-with a certain freedom of spirit, affluence of ideas, and felicity of expression, that form the requisite conditions of true eloquence, and blossom at the same time into the natural ornaments of style. The happiest intellectual conceptions are doubtless born of this mood, and it is as true of sermons as of any other productions, that the most favorable conditions must conspire to produce the most vigorous and vital efforts. Woe to him who must grind when the stream is dry and when the wheels are still,-who must apply the whole force of his will to the dormant mechanism of the brain,-knowing, all the while, that many will mark the crudity of his thought, but none be aware of the disadvantages under which it was elaborated. It is well known that the brain is double; and it has been conjectured that, while one side treasures the ideas and purposes of our wakeful life, the other aggregates and discloses the "baseless fabric " of dreams, during our sleeping hours. Perhaps we are here favored with a clue to the fact that so many sermons partake of the nature of visions, and predispose the hearers to an unconscious bowing of the head-not the infallible sign of either devoutness or assent. They were wrought out of that side of the brain which is devoted to dreams, and which ministers to slumber. We often expect eloquence, when the best a man can give us is somniloquence-because he has been cultivating the night side of his mind!

There are but few persons out of the ministry who appreciate the embarrassments, under which the preacher must often make his preparation for the pulpit. The ordinary VOL. XVIII. 5

cares of man are his, besides some gratuities furnished by his peculiar profession. Of course, the sick and afflicted have claims upon him, before which all others must give way. All the bores that thrive by the sufferance of amiable men, quarter themselves upon his time, as lawlessly as runaways graze upon a common. There have been instances, if we are to credit parochial reminiscences, in which unpaid bills have been presented at the study door, and the ascending train of meditation brought suddenly down to the level of a grocer's account! But the Sunday draws nigh with inexorable precision, and our friendly hearers go to the meetinghouse, to taste the fruit of our diligence. Happy the preacher who does not disappoint reasonable expectations; but who mounts the pulpit stair with his soul's best thought well crystalized in glowing words,-in whom the first peal of the organ, as it "launches silver music on the air," sounds the key note of a purpose tranquilly girded for the work of that solemn day.

It would be interesting to speculate on the wide diversity of tastes, dispositions, and wishes of those whom the preacher addresses. Of the hundreds who take cognizance of his words, no two, perhaps, are impressed precisely alike. No two occupy exactly the same relation to his mind. Many are occupied with things remote from the occasion, and inconsistent with the place. The measured cadences strike the ear, but do not always penetrate to the interior sense, where the word of wisdom is justified by the witness in the soul. The positive physiologists tell us where the heart of man lies, but we suspect that preachers do not always find it. Sometimes one must probe through hundreds of acres of real estate, or an invoice of Parisian millinery, or all the old clothes of church traditions that the Middle Ages have bequeathed, before he finds that vital organ whose wavering helm steers the ship of life.

The discerning philosopher, without a wink from Mephistophiles, may well marvel at the incongruons features that play under our Sunday masquerading. While the preacher repeats-"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth" -the business man may be dwelling on his latest speculation. While the preacher declares-" Man shall not live by bread alone"-the epicure grows impatient for the amen, that he may get home to his dinner. And while resound

the monitory words-" The fashion of this world passeth away "-what secret envy of the best bonnet may occupy some female auditor, the masculine fancy dare not conjecture.

Among those most seriously disposed, what conflicting tastes there are to pacify! One hearer wants "doctrine,' but five others unite in a petition for practical sermons. One admires "logic," cold and keen as a damascus blade, and thinks that people are to be got into the kingdom of heaven by a mathematical demonstration of the foolishness of staying out. Another wants the pungent gospel mollified in a solution of lubricated sentimentalism. In one pew sits a man who would metamorphose his preacher into a gladiator, and keep him perpetually fighting some theological beast. But his neighbor in the adjoining pew regards "dogmas" as an abomination, and finds controversy a thorn in the flesh. What can the preacher do but give ear to all friendly counsel, and-reconciling the incongruities in his congregation by the grand solvents of reason, patience and experience-go forward in his rugged course, "with a heart for any fate?".

We close our remarks, without having exhausted our theme. And we conclude by expressing the conviction, that the law of compensation works in the pastoral relation, as everywhere else. The churches that are most liberal, tolerant, enlightened, and zealous in good works, will have the best preaching; for, if the surroundings of a plant affect its growth, its vigor, and its fruit, how much more do the surroundings of a human soul influence the splendor of its bloom, the energy of its efforts, and the affluence of its harvest! And those preachers who bring to their calling the most bountiful resources,-whose thought is most vigorous, whose spirit is most enlarged and tender, whose imagination is vaulted over the broadest fields of meditation, will attract the richest-freighted congregations, build for themselves a broad communion of spiritual sympathy, rising rank from rank, till they touch the hierarchal splendor of ascended saints.

E. W. R.


Jephthah and his Daughter.

THERE is scarcely to be found, even in the rich storehouse of sacred history, a narrative combining more points of deep and varied interest than that contained in the eleventh chapter of the book of Judges, concerning Jephthah's remarkable vow and the fate of his daughter. Scenes from this story have been represented on canvas, and woven into poetry, and amplified and embellished in song and romance. The melancholy interest which the story is naturally adapted to excite, has been heightened and aggravated by the supposition that Jephthah's vow required him to sacrifice his daughter as a burnt-offering. On this account it has been the perpetual theme of the poet and painter, who have vied with each other in their respective arts to illustrate the supposed tragical fate of Jephthah's daughter, and the struggle in the bosom of the father between the sense of duty, in fulfilling a solemn religious vow, and the natural instinct and tender pleadings of paternal love, when, as it has been supposed, he gave up his daughter as a sacrifice in accordance with a rash and imprudent vow. The sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter is the subject of oratorios by Handel (1751) and Reinthaler (1855)1. It forms the subject of one of Willis's Sacred Poems, of which we shall have something to say, further along. It is beyond all question true that much that has been written about Jephthah's vow, and much of the interest which the story has excited, have originated in a misconception and mistranslation of the Hebrew text; nevertheless, on account of the intrinsic interest of the story, it is important, and perhaps by reason of the erroneous translation it is all the more important, that an effort should be made to set this subject in its true light.

In passing in review Jephthah's singular vow and the fate of his daughter, we may first recount some of the chief points of interest in his history.

From the time of the death of Joshua to the election of

1 New Amer. Ency. ix. 779.

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