Henry Ward Beecher.

Notes from Plymouth pulpit : a collection of memorable passages from the discourses of Henry Ward Beecher online

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Online LibraryHenry Ward BeecherNotes from Plymouth pulpit : a collection of memorable passages from the discourses of Henry Ward Beecher → online text (page 1 of 18)
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S. A.







Calletttim si tcnwraW*








ENTERED according to Act of Congress, in the year 1858, by

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for the Southern District of Nw York-

W. H. TINSON, Stereotypor. GKO. RUSSELL & Co., Printers.


THIS volume is published not only without prepa
ration or revision by Mr. Beecher, but he is ignorant
of its entire contents, he having seen neither the
copy or the proof. In withdrawing his objections to
the publication of it, Mr. Beecher was influenced by
the same generous motives which prompted him to
give to others than himself the benefit of his previous
published works. It is believed that the editor has
faithfully caught the spirit of the living, breathing
words, as uttered by the pastor of Plymouth Church ;
and that her work will be received with acceptance
by the public.


THE Notes contained in this volume are chiefly from
memory. The most of them were written during the
years of 1856-t and were committed to paper simply
because it was impossible to think of, or to write, any
thing else with a mind so fully possessed by the memory
of the sermons from which they were taken.

Mr. Beecher is not responsible for the contents of this
volume. There is no pretension that the Notes are
verbatim. Whether they are, in tone and spirit, like
him, the public will judge. But, because a thing is writ
ten here, it must not be said to Mr. Beecher, " You
said that thing," unless he chooses to own it. In repeat
ing from memory the sayings of another, it is very
likely that errors may occur. Meanings may be modified
or colored by the mind through which they pass.

And yet the writer has tried faithfully to give the true
sense, and, as far as memory would assist, the exact
expressions of Mr. Beecher.

It is not the beauty of Mr. Beecher's expressions, nor



the startling and resplendent flashes of his thought that
this book will show, so much as his presentation of simple
and holy truth, in such guise as never fails to interest and
instruct all whose notice is gained. And thousands who
cannot be induced to peruse long sermons, will cheerfully
read, and undoubtedly remember the vital truths illus
trated and enforced in the following pages.

The volume is a testimony to the power with which the
mind from whence it sprung influences other minds, and
of the nature of that influence.

A. M.




A Sketch of Henry Ward Beecher xxiii

A Christian like bread 266

Acorns and young ministers 61

Actions based on feelings 46

A fool's part 187

A general question 228

A grave for trouble 287

A great contrast 106

Ahab and Naboth 262

All Christians should be preachers 284

All men writing books , 51

All truths not to be spoken in one age 99

Always carnival with the passions 177

A man better than a king 176

A man of war 229

Answered prayers 224

Anxiety for friends 147

Applying the knife 192

A prophecy of the future 165

Aristocracy destructive to piety - 273

A singing church ^ . ^ 148

A sound life the best theology 276

Asps and butterflies 35

Assurance of faith 256





Balm in nature for sick hearts 100

Battlefields of the world 53

Bear your weight on God 40

Best way to teach truth 277

Be sure of the path 260

Betraying Christ to rhetoric 181

Be true to virtue, honesty, and piety. . . 286

Boys in the limbo of vanity 42

Blue sky in Wall street 250

Bright days and dark ones 276

Brown, Brothers & Co 189

Calvinism the safeguard of freedom 83

Camping on the edges of sin , 105

Carrion natures 39

Casting one's care on Christ 26

Change of motive and purpose instantaneous 291

Christian graces not in the Bible 283

Christians not required to give up the pleasures of this life ... 77

Christians must learn to bear prosperity 92

Christianity should rule in politics 226

Christianity too shallow in churches 73

Christ and the woman of Samaria 71

Christ pardons before rebuking 30

Christ spoke most to the poor 71

Christ the foundation of Christianity 180

Christ the standard of perfection 239

Christ to have all 26

Climbing hills 285

Come up hither 148

Commentators 170

Common things dearest to Christ 73

Conscience rotting 45

Creation's centre jewel 186


Dark lighthouses 114

Deacon's office . 186



Dead 270

Death God's call 274

Declaring God's whole counsel 52

Descendants of the Jewish bigots 278

Difference between a Christian and a worldling 220

Discontent 66

Doctrines 177

Doing evil by proxy 267

Don't expect other people's experiences 222

Don't fret 56

Duty of rejoicing 157

Dyspepsia of books 41


Earnestness confounded with solemnity 280

Easy working better than much working 172

Election and reprobation 238

Emasculating religion 203

Encouragement to young Christians 280

Escapeless gaze of the Almighty 235

Equal evidence of design for pain as for pleasure in this world 151

Extremes meet in a common blunder 198

Excitements in religion right and desirable 214



Faces 162

Fall of bad men final 113

Falsehood in love 271

Fiddles, men not 154

Fighting faults 154

Figure of the wheat 64

First love not best 41

Flies of humanity 160

Flower stores of Paris 145

Frozen ship and the Spirit of God 103


Giving one's self for another 210

God willing to give good gifts 28



God, honor towards 29

God feels our conduct 30

God works by means 198

God the servant of man 230

God's glory his goodness 219 and 234

God's hatred of slavery 85

Godship of Christ 26

Good advice 195

Good and bad women 261

Gospel, two views of the 25

Grace must be burnt in 172

Grace, nature blossomed out 166

Graces growing ripe , 168

Gradual growth of Christian character 212

Grain at the end of harvest 34

Greed and covetousness 268

Greedy for wealth 83


Happiness not the end of life 159

Hatred man's strongest capacity 183

Hardness good for men ' 277

Head faith and h,eart faith different 274

Hell in the heart 235

Hell real and necessary 104

Heroic women 188

Hidden troubles worst. . 233

Horror of death 194

Hours like sponges 104

How to think of heaven 54

How conviction sometimes comes 146

How to test the truth of Christianity 58

How men glory 244

How they should glory 244

How men are prepared for usefulness 279

Human nature should shun dangerous passes 274


Impoverishing the soul for the sake of gain 238

In danger men call on God 168

Infidels are working for God , 209



Infidels and fixed laws 206

Influence on social intercourse of a belief in the immortality

of man 41

Is conscience our punisher ? 252


Journals the devil's vanity trap 38

Journal of God 95

Judge not by appearances 237

Judging of Christians 60


Lecture room, the xxxix.

Life a concatenation 41

Lightning rods 234

Living in Gethsemane ; 46

Living altogether in the affections unsafe 51

Longing for life 156

Look out along the banks of life 154

Loving God in Christ studying a picture 31

Loving men makes them ours 47

Love to God the only right motive of action 106

Love the only ground of perfect union 178

Love's labor basket making 82


Make God to suit your need 205

Making a dead letter of the Bible 243

Man not required to understand God's mysteries 174

Mean conversions 269

Measuring by God 33

Meeting in heaven 217

Men not to be judged by Sunday conduct 250

Men must be more than indexes 73

Men too refined for God 51

Men of one idea 44

Ministers should mingle with the masses 76

Mirth the wine of life 222

Monday versus Sunday 112

Morality a short cable 173



Morality compared to a ship 219

Most dangerous sins 37

Most expected from those who have most 291

Motives not always required to be unselfish 27

Mourning garments 47


Natural faculties blossomed 52

No creature so impotent as man 276

No defining classes of feelings , 41

No happiness apart from God 36

No man can do another's work 79

No man can live unto himself 177

No quiet for the soul of man 273

No religion in the Bible 167

Not afraid of a laugh , 270

Not good to see too much of men 99


One virtue 154

Only the hopeless may hope 235

Opposing ideas of Christianity 256

Oregon pines 66

Our actions affect God's happiness 29

Our churches growing pure 228

Our faculties interpret God 283

Our hour of rest , 230

Outward and occasional morality 85


Pain purifying 162

Passages from prayers 296

Paul's conversion 50

People not apt to confess besetting sins 189

Perfect love 34

Persecuted, but not forsaken 160

Phonographic report of a prayer 302

Pictures for eternity 213

Planting seeds by singing 148



Poor and rich saints contrasted 94

Prayer 67

Praying into nothing 114

Praying tone 296

Praying too long 295

Preparation for prayer 296

Prodigality of God 183

Pushing the rock the wrong way 110


Raphael's transfiguration 249

Reality of God's love 231

Reason like a telescope 42

Reckoned with the children of God 225

Refined, yet unchristian 43

Reformation not religion 105

Religion, a need of the soul 37

Religion the bread of life 275

Religion the warp and woof of life 168

Religious and family affection compared 100

Religious controversies , 277

Remarks respecting a new church 243

Rest on the promises 26

Revelations 35

Ridicule, men impervious to 30

Right between the right persons 233

Right doing should be involuntary ". 251

Right living more than abstaining from sin 115

Right sort of prayer-meeting 93


Security of trusting spirits 285

Self-will prevents conversion 107

Sentimental goodness 278

Scruples of good men in regard to the indulgence of taste for

the fine arts 95

Short of provisions 113

Sight of a rifle 291

Sins like undermining worms 39



Slaveholder's letter 165

Some doubts never settled 40

Sorrows like clouds 53

Sowing seed on a windy day 227

Strength equal to your day 163

Submissive in the affections, but rebellious in business affairs,

when troubled 241

Suffering rightly borne 42

Summer meeting in the store-house of Autumn 255

Sweetest natures soonest soured 97


Taking up the cross 91

Tear ringing in heaven 28

Tears often telescopes . 52

Test of a good institution 279

The church not God's only instrument 278

The devil's cloak 187

The family the most important institution 97

The grave a window into heaven 44

The law a battery Ill

The leaf in a whirlpool. 57

The man of your counsel 282

The moral pirate 232

The preacher's a painful business 63

The prosperous voyage 218

The question in the air 165

The slave and the diamond 223

The sportsman 226

The theatre ... 157

The vanished years 191

Things that money cannot buy 261

Thin souls 113

Thoughts and reasonings of children Satan catching wicked

boys Andy Chandler, the old Negro servant, etc 199

Time a beleaguering army 274

Tormenting one's self with the memory of repented sins 188

Truth equilibriated 114

Truth that leaves false impressions 288



Truths that take hold ... 277

Turning the helm 109


Uncurrent coin 248

Undermined towers 231

Unkind words like pins and needles 90

Unselfishness the surest way to happiness. 46


Virtues of the moralist 71

Volcanic natures.. 39


Waiting for conviction of sin 146

Warning against Plymouth Church 286

Water-logged by fear 113

Weak love 275

We shall know of the doctrine 242

We want to be converted 227

What is the testimony of your life ? 262

What repentance is 253

Which crimes ruin most 40

Whittling out prayers 43

Who is wise 173

Whose are the sheep ? 259

Who should pray 292

Why the world was made what it was 279

Wickedness worse in God than in man 222

Wisdom and modesty to be used in expressing even our right

opinions 179

Wolf-like sin 30

Woman's yearning for love 82

Woman more godlike than man 46

Words are bubbles 187

Words of Christ., , 81



Work out your own salvation ..... . ....................... 110

Worst spectacle of this country ......... ................. 204


Ye would take away ray Lord ................... . ......... 11*7


Zigzagging to heaven ................ > .................. 269


WHEN Henry Ward Beecher is dead, there will be
made a great effort to learn just how he looked and acted,
as well as just what he said.

And perhaps it will fall out, in his case, as it has in
regard to many others of renown, that with much labor
and with heavy cost, men shall succeed in discovering
nothing very definite or reliable.

It is easy to enumerate the points in a man's personal
appearance, if that were all. Mr. Beecher is of medium
height, is full in flesh, has a strong, well developed frame ;
every organ is active and healthy. He has full command
of his limbs, which are pliant and supple as a child's ; his
body is as elastic as an india-rubber ball, and handled
by him with about as much ease as he would toss about
a ball. His face is full and fresh ; his eyes large, expres
sive, atfd blue sometimes grey ; his forehead is square
and broad, his hair brown, and worn long ; his glance
quick, keen, and discerning ; his smile humorous and

Who, now, that has not seen the man, can tell how he
appears to the eye that actually beholds him ? and who
can ever gather from such points the endless variety in a
man's appearance ?



To describe Mr. Beecher's mind, there are not half a
dozen writers in the country who could be trusted ; and
only the pen or the brush of a master could do anything
like justice to his mere physical man. Would that there
might arise, betimes, some efficient limner.

Like the mountains of which Mr. Beecher delights to
talk, he has numberless diverse moods and aspects. Like
them, he is sometimes cloudy and obscured ; and some
times, like them, he stands out bold and clear, in the full
light of noon.

Never was human face more variable ; of no one that
ever lived could it more emphatically be said, " On differ
ent days he looks a different man."

At one time, and in one mood, his face is red, his eyes
dull and half covered with the swollen flesh of the heavy
lids. There is no brightness to be seen about him ; no
briskness of motion, no erectness or strength of posi
tion. The animal nature has gained temporary ascend
ency over the spiritual, and an enemy might be expected
to describe Mr. Beecher as an unrefined ploughboy,
or a butcher in a minister's clothes, or rather, in a
minister's desk, for Mr. Beecher's clothes are not minis

But let the enemy wait until he sees our mountain in its
more usual aspect. Let him wait until the strong, and
perhaps somewhat rough and rugged intellect has stirred
itself, and arisen for action, till the torpedo-like heart is
on fire, till the fervid words burst forth, and the face, but
now so dull, begins to shine with the interior glory.


Then comes the transfiguration ! The material shrinks
from sight, and the spiritual beams forth, causing in his
countenance a change almost inconceivable. His face
assumes all the rich softness of a mezzotint engraving
round, fair, and dimpled you now perceive it to be j and
its whole expression becomes pure and elevated, almost
like the angels' faces that we have seen in dreams.

His forehead is white and high, and shines like the
brow of a sun-touched mountain ; his eyes beam clear and
mild, now with the strength of the man, again with love
and innocence, like the eyes of a babe ; his close-shaven
chin, and the lower part of his cheeks are shaded, as if by
the brush of an artist ; there is no longer a rugged line,
or a rough look about him, his aspect is altogether noble,
beautiful, serene.

This, until he stands forth as Boanerges, and then he is
the mountain in a winter storm. Mingling in his tones,
are heard reminders of the cataract, and of the crash of
thunder j while his flashing eyes and changing features
have upon you the effect of lightning, and his gestures
represent the rushing wind. Then, while you are yet
thrilling to the sweep of the storm, you are melted to
tears by some sorrow, or some longing, started into
new life by the magic tenderness of tones silvery

Mr. Beecher's voice alone is a wonderful power. It
mingles in its various utterances, all loud, and wild, and
awful tones, with the sound of fairy harpstrings, and the
chime of bells. It has the high battle-call of the trurn-


pet or the clarion, and all the touching gentleness of a
mother's cradle hymn.

A man whose voice combines the three sorts of power
with which the three following sentences were spoken,
has in his possession an engine fitted to move the world :

"When they come forth from their graves when
from mountain, from valley, and from the dark waves of
the sea, they lift up their blanched faces to their Judge
they will be speechless."

" Butterflies, the interior spirit of rainbows, sent down
to salute those kisses of the seasons on the ground-

"Women, who have such need of love, ought not to
find it hard to come to Jesus Christ, and put their arms
about his neck, and tell him, with gushing love, that they
give themselves, body and soul, into his keeping."

What has been said and written of Dr. Chalmers' pul
pit appearance, manners, and diction, reminds one very
forcibly of Mr. Beecher. As plain " in dress and gait "
as was that celebrated preacher, and as impressive in
discourse as he, is the subject of this sketch. Alike in
plainness of speech, in intense earnestness, in quick and
deep emotion, in apt and striking imagery and illustration,
are the sermons of these two men Men. Alike, in
the sermons of each, when at full flood, deep calls unto
deep, spirit speaks to spirit, and the hearer almost forgets
that he yet wears the veil, and dwells amid the false and
deceptive scenes of the flesh. Often it seems as if the
judgment were already set, and the hearer there. Few,


indeed, are the preachers who have power to strike di
rectly to the heart, to lay hold with such forcible and
tenacious grasp upon the moral sense, as does Henry
Ward Beecher. Every man's soul may be reached in
some way, and Mr. Beecher knows the open path. Let
that man who does not wish his conscience roused, his
nerves thrilled, and his tears started, keep away from the
genuine and impassioned power of truth, as presented
as "thrust in upon men's souls, by Henry Ward Beecher.

A cold, polished, cynical man of the world, going one
evening, at the invitation of a lady, to Plymouth Church,
remarked upon his way, "I go to hear Henry Ward
Beecher with the same feelings that I go to witness the
performances of Burton."

The sermon that night, though not one of Mr. Beecher*s
greatest efforts, was a powerful one, appealing to man's
own consciousness of sin and ill desert ; every word told.
There was no escape. It was extempore, only the heads
thoroughly analyzed and accurately worded, being written
out. The speaker's logic, at which the visitor had seemed
inclined to sneer, was perfect ; and his presentation of
the truth was truly appalling to all out of Christ.

The face of the gentleman who thought he was going
to be amused that evening, belied his feelings if he was

The aptness of Mr. Beecher's comparisons ; the acute-
ness with which he lays the knife to what needs cutting ;
the unexpected descents which he makes upon errors of
thought and conduct, frequently excite irresistible laugh-



ter. From this fact, those that lie in wait seeking how
they may harm him, have represented him in the light of
a clerical buffoon. Nothing can be more entirely or
malignantly false. He is as far from levity and irrever
ence as those who purposely malign him are from noble
ness and honesty. Gravity sits upon him with a native

But his imagination is so rich and strong, his flow of
language is so great, and the heart that beats like a great
hammer in his breast, is such a volcanic heart, so impetu
ous, so prone to overflow, that he does sometimes lose the
reins of prudence. He is occasionally like a man who
has struck his foot so hard against a stone, that, to save
himself from falling on his face, he needs must run awhile,
though every step be upon vipers. The temperament
which God gave a man must be considered in judging of
him ; and considering that of Mr. Beecher, also the mul
titude of things that he has said, and is forever saying ;
and the pressure of the various extreme excitements which
are upon him ; it is a proof that he possesses a remark
able share of discretion and common sense that he has
said so few imprudent things as he has said.

Mr. Beecher is frequently humorous, both in tone and
expression, when he is altogether unaware that he is so.
It is conceded that, great as is this orator, and nobly as
truth and earnestness are stamped on all that he says and
does, that master as he is of gesture and expression, there
still is hovering about him somewhat of the ludicrous.

Certain notions he has which always incline one to


smile. The wag of Ms head when he is about to clinch
an argument ; the shake of his elbows and his knees,
when he knows that he has you penned ; the eager
ness with which he seizes upon that devoted handkerchief,
when he is about to " charge ;" the strength with which,
as he commences his tilt, he squeezes it (turning his hand-
palm towards his chair and back towards the desk, leaning
on knuckles and thumb, one foot crossed over the other,
and supported upon its toe) ; the force with which he throws
it from him, as he comes forward to close in the conflict
he has waged ; are all manoeuvres certain to be repeated,
almost constantly; and one cannot avoid being amused
by seeing them so unconsciously, yet energetically, per

Although Mr. Beecher himself seldom appears to be in
much haste, there is always an air of being in a hurry
about his clothes and his hair. They manifest inten
tions of going forward, whether he goes or remains
standing still. His neck is so short that he never ven
tures a standing-up collar. This, probably, in considera
tion for his ears.

One very remarkable singularity in his face is the utter
incongruity between its .front and its side views. Upon being
told that he resembled Henry Ward Beecher, a relative
of that clergyman replied, laughingly, " I know that I am
said to look like him ; but 'tis such resemblance as a sheep
bears to a lion." Now the fact is, were that humble-
minded relative of the famed "Lion" a great deal more


like a " sheep n than he considers himself to be, he might
still bear striking resemblance to his cousin ; for though
when he turns full towards you, in the heat of discourse,
Mr. Beecher frequently does present the appearance of a
lion, it is next to impossible for a person of an imaginative
turn of mind to view his profile without being strongly
reminded of ovine faces, seen and perhaps loved, in the
days and the years gone by.

The timidity of the sheep is not there ; but its long
favoredness, its serenity, its gentleness, and modesty of
expression, most certainly are. His face is mobile to the
last degree : to the play of his features there appears to
be no limit. There is not a feeling of the heart that he
cannot strongly express without the utterance of a word.
And his strong, well-knit and flexible frame is an engine
for action than which no mortal never need desire a

The question is sometimes asked, is Henry Ward
Beecher a handsome man ? Don't you ask it, reader. It
is a question that cannot be answered. Can any one
think those heavy eyes, that indescribable nose, those
pouting, I-don't-care sort of lips, that tumbled hair, that
boyish face, handsome ? Not very easily. But, can we
call that glowing eye, that soul-lit face, those eloquent

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Online LibraryHenry Ward BeecherNotes from Plymouth pulpit : a collection of memorable passages from the discourses of Henry Ward Beecher → online text (page 1 of 18)