Page images

EDWIN H. CHAPIN (1814-1880)


[ocr errors]

S a popular and eloquent preacher Chapin was unrivaled among

the ministers of Unitarianism, and there were few who sur

passed him among those of any denomination in our country. As a public lecturer he was equally popular, being accounted one of the ablest and most attractive of this class. He stood on a par with such famous speakers as Beecher, Phillips and Parker, and made his themes much the same-temperance, abolition, universal peace, and the like. In 1850 he was a member of the Peace Convention at Frankfurt-on-the-Main, and made there a highly effective address. In 1818 he took charge of a church in New York, which grew, by successive stages, from one of modest size to a great erection, capable of holding the immense congregations that flocked to hear him. He published several volumes of sermons and other works, and in 1872 became editor of the Christian Leader.


[From Chapin's numerous addresses we select some brief passages as illustrations of his style and eloquent handling of any subject touched by him. There is an clement of picturesqueness in all he says, and his delivery was so effective as to give him great influence over the minds of his hearers ]

The great element of reform is not born of human wisdom, it does not draw its life from human organizations. I find it only in Christianity.

Thy kingdom come!” There is a sublime and pregnant burden in this prayer. It is the aspiration of every soul that goes forth in the spirit of reform. For what is the significance of this prayer? It is a petition that all holy influences would penetrate and subdue and dwell in the heart of man, until he shall think, and speak, and do good from the very necessity of his being. So would the institutions of error and wrong crumble

[blocks in formation]

and pass away. So would sin die out from the earth ; and the human soul, living in harmony with the divine will, this earth would become like Heaven. It is too late for the reformers to sneer at Christianity ; it is foolishness for them to reject it. In it are enshrined our faith in human progress, our confidence in reform. It is indissolubly connected with all that is hopeful, spiritual, capable, in man. That men have misunderstood it and perverted it is true. But it is also true that the noblest efforts for human amelioration have come out of it; have been based upon it. Is it not so ? Come, ye remembered ones, who sleep the sleep of the just; who took your conduct from the line of Christian philosophy; come from your tomb, and answer !

Come, Howard, from the gloom of the prison and the taint of the lazar house, and show us what philanthropy can do when imbued with the spirit of Jesus. Come, Eliot, from the thick forest where the red man listens to the Word of Life. Come, Penn, from thy sweet counsel and weaponless victory, and show us what Christian zeal and Christian love can accomplish with the rudest barbarians or the fiercest hearts. Come, Raikes, from thy labors with the ignorant and the poor, and show us with what an eye this faith regards the lowest and least of our race; and how diligently it labors,—not for the body, not for the rank, but for the plastic soul that is to course the ages of immortality. And ye, who are a great number,-ye nameless ones who have done good in your narrow spheres, content to forego renown on earth and seeking your record in the Record on High,—come and tell us how kindly a spirit, how lofty a purpose, or how strong a courage the religion ye profess can breathe into the poor, the humble, and the weak. Go forth, then, spirit of Christianity, to thy great work of reform! The past bears witness to thee in the blood of thy martyrs, and the ashes of thy saints and heroes; the present is hopeful because of thee; the future shall acknowledge thy omnipotence.

THE TRIUMPHS OF LABOR Who can adequately describe the triumphs of labor, urged on by the potent spell of money? It has extorted the secrets of the universe and trained its forms into myriads of powers of use and beauty. From the bosom of the old creation it has developed anew the creation of industry and art. It has been its task and its glory to overcome obstacles. Mountains have been leveled and valleys have been exalted before it. It has broken the rocky soil into fertile glades; it has crowned the hill tops with verdure, and bound round the very feet of ocean ridges of golden corn. Up from the sunless and hoary deeps, up from the shapeless quarry, it drags its spotless marbles and rears its palaces of pomp. It steals the

[blocks in formation]

stubborn metals from the bowels of the globe, and makes them ductile to its will. It marches steadily on over the swelling flood and through the mountain clefts. It fans its way through the winds of ocean, tramples them in its course, surges and mingles them with flames of fire. Civilization follows in its path. It achieves grander victories, it weaves more durable trophies, it holds wider sway than the conqueror.

His name becomes tainted and his monuments crumble; but labor converts his red battlefields into gardens and erects monuments significant of better things. It rides in a chariot driven by the wind. It writes with the lightning. It sits crowned as a queen in a thousand cities, and sends up its roar of triumph from a million wheels. It glistens in the fabric of the loom ; it rings and sparkles in the steely hammer; it glories in the shapes of beauty ; it speaks in words of power ; it makes the sinewy arm strong with liberty, the poor man's heart rich with content, crowns the swarthy and sweaty brow with honor, and dignity, and peace.

THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL Nature is republican. The discoveries of Science are republican. Sir, what are these new forces, steam and electricity, but powers that are leveling all factitious distinctions and forcing the world on to a noble destiny? Have they not already propelled the nineteenth century a thousand years ahead? What are they but the servitors of the people, and not of a class? Does not the poor man of to-day ride in a car dragged by forces such as never waited on kings, or drove the wheels of triumphal chariots ? Does he not yoke the lightning, and touch the magnetic nerves of the world! The steam engine is a democrat. It is the popular heart that throbs in its iron pulses. And the electric telegraph writes upon the walls of despotism, mené mené tekel upharsin !



[ocr errors]

N a high rank among America's eminent ecclesiastical orators

must be placed Phillips Brooks, who for ten years was one of

Philadelphia's favorite speakers, and for nearly a quarter of a century preached the Gospel to highly appreciative audiences in Boston. For the last two years of his life he was the Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts. Brooks had not the wide-spread popularity of Beecher. He lacked the strongly emotional spirit, the raciness, and verbal originality to which the latter owed much of his effect on the public, yet he was one of the most admired pulpit orators of the country during the greater part of his career. He was more polished in style than Beecher, his language of striking simplicity yet always artistic in treatment; a man of restrained force yet of earnest sentiment and elevated thought.

THE EVIL THAT MEN DO LIVES AFTER THEM” [Phillips Brooks did not win fame as a great secular orator, as Beecher did. His eminence was won in the pulpit, and confined to the pulpit. We give an example of his pulpit oratory in which is shown at once his simplicity of style, and the cumulative power by which he made his thoughts effective, and held his audiences in rapt attention.)

Tell me you have a sin that you mean to commit this evening that is going to make this night black: What can keep you from committing that sin ? Suppose you look into its consequences. Suppose the wise man tells you what will be the physical consequences of that sin. You shudder and you shrink, and perhaps you are partially deterred. Suppose you see the glory that might come to you, physical, temporal, spiritual, if you do not commit that sin. The opposite of it shows itself to you—the blessing and the richness in your life. Again there comes a

[blocks in formation]

great power that shall control your lust and wickedness. Suppose there comes to you something even deeper than that, no consequence on conscience at all, but simply an abhorrence for the thing, so that your whole nature shrinks from it as the nature of God shrinks from a sin that is polluting, and filthy and corrupt and evil.

They are all great powers. Let us thank God for them all. He knows that we are weak enough to need every power that can possibly be brought to bear upon our feeble lives; but if, along with all of them, there could come this other power, if along with them there could come the certainty that if you refrain from that sin to-night you make the sum of sin that is in the world, and so the sum of future evil that is to spring out of temptation in the world, less, shall there not be a nobler impulse rise up in your heart, and shall you not say : “I will not do it ; I will be honest, I will be sober, I will be pure, at least, to-night?” I dare to think that there are men here to whom that appeal can come, men who, perhaps, will be all dull and deaf if one speaks to them about their personal salvation; who, if one dares to picture to them, appealing to their better nature, trusting to their nobler soul, and there is in them the power to save other men from sin, and to help the work of God by the control of their own passions and the fulfillment of their own duty, will be stirred to the higher life. Men–very often we do not trust them enough—will answer to the higher appeal that seems to be beyond them when the poor, lower appeal that comes within the region of their selfishness is cast aside, and they will have nothing to do with it.

Oh, this marvelous, this awful power that we have over other people's lives! Oh, the power of the sin that you have done years and years ago! It is awful to think of it. I think there is hardly anything more terrible to the human thought than this—the picture of a man who, having sinned years and years ago in a way that involved other souls in his sin, and then, having repented of his sin and undertaken another life, knows certainly that the power, the consequence of that sin is going on outside of his reach, beyond even his ken and knowledge. He cannot touch it.

You wronged a soul ten years ago. You taught a boy how to tell his first mercantile lie; you degraded the early standards of his youth. What has become of that boy to-day? You may have repented. He has passed out of your sight. He has gone years and years ago. Somewhere in this great, multitudinous mass of humanity he is sinning and sinning, and reduplicating and extending the sin that you did. You touched the faith of some believing soul years ago with some miserable sneer of yours, with some cynical and skeptical disparagement of God and of the man

« PreviousContinue »