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were successful.

A few years later, the preeminent American writer of
sermons to be read and pondered in every part of the
world was Horace Bushnell ; as the great popular preacher,


whose words, caught burning from his lips, rolled around
the world in a perpetual stream, was Henry Ward Beecher.
Widely different from either of these, and yet in an honor-
able sense successor to the fame of both, was Phillips
Brooks, of all American preachers most widely beloved
and honored in all parts of the church.

Of living preachers whose sermons have already attained
a place of honor in libraries at home and abroad, the name
of Bishop F. D. Huntington stands among the foremost ;
and those who have been charmed by the brilliant rhetoric
and instructed from the copious learning of his college
classmate, Dr. Richard S. Storrs, must feel it a wrong done
to our national literature that these gifts should be chiefly
known to the reading public only by occasional discourses
and by two valuable studies in religious history instead of by
volumes of sermons. Perhaps no American pulpits have
to-day a wider hearing beyond the sea than two that
stand within hearing distance of each other on New Haven
Green, occupied by Theodore T. Munger and Newman
Smyth. The pulpit of Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, has
not ceased, since the accession of Lyman Abbott, to wield
a wide and weighty influence, — less wide, but in some
respects more weighty, than in the days of his famous
predecessor, — by reason of a well-deserved reputation for
biblical learning and insight, and for candor and wisdom
in applying Scriptural principles to the solution of current

The early American theology was, as we have seen, a
rhetorical and not a merely scholastic theology — a theology
to be preached.^ In like manner, the American pulpit in
those days was distinctly theological, like a professor's
chair. One who studies with care the pulpit of to-day,
in those volumes that seem to command the widest and
1 See above, p. 375.


most enduring attention, will find that it is to a lar^e
extent apolog etic, addressingJlselLto the abating of doubts
and objections tQjheXhxistiaii system, or,, recognizing the
existinguiauht£^uj:ging_the religious duties that are never-
theless incumbent on the doubting mind. It_has_ceas.ed
to as^mneJJieL-Siibstantial soundness of the hearer in the
main- pr i nciples -o f orthodox op lniony-aad, regards him. as
one t^-be-4^^44 to the church - by-attraction, persuasion, or
argiimeiiL The result of this attitude of the preacher is
to make the pulpit studiously, and even. eagerly, attractive
and interesting. This virtue has its corresponding fault.
The American preacher of to-day is little i.D., danger of
being dull; his^-peril lies, at the other extreme. His
temptation is rather to the feebleness of extravagant state-
ment, and to an ovfirstrainejd-andJJieatrie-Fhe^eric such as
some persons find so attractive in the discourses of Dr.
Talmage, and others find repulsive and intolerable.

A direction in which the literature of practical theology
in America is sure to expand itself in the immediate future
is indicated in the title of a recent work of that versatile
and useful writer. Dr. Washington Gladden, " Applied
Christianity." The salutary conviction that political econ-
omy cannot be relied on by itself to adjust all the intricate
relations of men under modern conditions of life, that the
ethical questions that arise are not going to solve themselves
automatically by the law of demand and supply, that the
gospel and the church and the Spirit of Christ have some-
what to do in the matter, has been settling itself deeply
into the minds of Christian believers. Xhe-impression
that the questions between labor and capital, between
sordid poverty and overgrown wealth, were old-world
questions, of which we of the New World are relieved, is
effectually dispelled. Thus far there is not much of his-
tory to be written under this head, but somewhat of pro-


phecy. It is now understood, and felt in the conscience, that
these questions are for every Christian to consider, and for
those undertaking the cure of souls to make the subject
of their faithful, laborious professional study. The found-
ing of professorships of social ethics in the theological
seminaries must lead to important and speedy results in
the efficiency of churches and pastors in dealing with this
difficult class of problems.^ But whatever advances shall
be made in the future, no small part of the impulse toward
them will be recognized as coming from, or rather through,
the inspiring and most Christian humanitarian writings and
the personal influence and example of Edward Everett Hale.

In one noble department of religious literature, the
liturgical, the record of the American church is meager.
The reaction among the early colonists and many of the
later settlers against forms of worship imposed by political
authority was violent. Seeking for a logical basis, it
planted itself on the assumption that no form (unless an
improvised form) is permitted in public worship, except
such as are sanctioned by express word of Scripture. In
their sturdy resolution to throw ofi^ and break up the
yoke, which neither they nor their fathers had been able
to bear, of ordinances and traditions complicated with not
a little of debilitating superstition, the extreme Puritans
of England and Scotland rejected the whole system of
holy days in the Christian year, including the authentic
anniversaries of Passover and Pentecost, and discontinued
the use of religious ceremonies at marriages and funerals.^

1 The program of Yale Divinity School for 1896-97 announces among the
" required studies in senior year" lectures " on some important problems of
American life, such as Socialism, Communism, and Anarchism ; Races in
the United States ; Immigration ; the Modern City ; tlie Wage System ; the
Relations of Employer and Employed ; Social Classes ; the Causes, Preven-
tion, and Punishment of Crime; and University Settlements."

2 Williston Walker, "The Congregationalists," pp. 245, 246.


The only liturgical compositions that have come down to us
from the first generations are the various attempts, in
various degrees of harshness and rudeness, at the versifi-
cation of psalms and other Scriptures for singing. The
emancipation of the church from its bondage to an artifi-
cial dogma came, as we have already seen, with the Great
Awakening and the introduction of Watts's " Psalms of
David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament." ^
After the Revolution, at the request of the General Asso-
ciation of Connecticut and the General Assembly of the
Presbyterian Church, Timothy Dwight completed the work
of Watts by versifying a few omitted psalms," and added
a brief selection of hymns, chiefly in the grave and solemn
Scriptural style of Watts and Doddridge. Then followed,
in successive tides, from England, the copious hymnody
of the Methodist revival, both Calvinist and Wesleyan, of
the Evangelical revival, and now at last of the Oxford
revival, with its affluence of translations from the ancient
hymnists, as well as of original hymns. It is doubtless
owing to this abundant intermittent inflow from England
that the production of American hymns has been so
scanty. Only a few writers, among them Thomas Has-
tings and Ray Palmer, have written each a considerable
number of hymns that have taken root in the common use
of the church. Not a few names besides are associated
each with some one or two or three lyrics that have won
an enduring place in the aflfections of Christian worshipers.

1 See above, pp. 182-184.

2 The only relic of this work that survives in common use is the immortal
lyric, " I love thy kingdom, Lord," founded on a motif in the one hundred
and thirty-seventh psalm. This, with Doddridge's hymn, " My God, and is
thy table spread? "' continued for a long time to be the most in-in-^rtant church
hymn and eucharislic hymn in the English language. We should not per-
h.aps have looked for the gift of them to two Congregationalist ministers, one
in New England and the other in old En -land. There is no such illustra-
tion of the spiritual unity of " the holy cr.tholic churcli, the fellowship of the
holy," as is presented in a modern hymn-book.


The '' gospel hymns " which have flowed from many pens
in increasing volume since the revival of 1857 have proved
their great usefulness, especially in connection with the
ministry of Messrs. Moody and Sankey ; but they are,
even the best of them, short-lived. After their season the
church seems not unwilling to let them die.

Soon after the mid-point of the nineteenth century, began
a serious study of the subject of the conduct of public
worship, which continues to this day, with good promise
of sometime reaching useful and stable results. In 1855
was published " Eutaxia, or the Presbyterian Liturgies:
Historical Sketches. By a Minister of the Presbyterian
Church." The author, Charles W. Baird, was a man
peculiarly fitted to render the church important service,
such as indeed he did render in this volume, and in the
field of Huguenot history which he divided with his
brother, Henry M. Baird. How great the loss to historical
theology through his protracted feebleness of body and
his death may be conjectured, not measured. This brief
volume awakened an interest in the subject of it in America,
and in Scotland, and among the nonconformists of Eng-
land. To American Presbyterians in general it was some-
thing like a surprise to be reminded that the sisterhood of
the " Reformed " sects were committed by their earliest
and best traditions in favor of liturgic uses in public wor-
ship. At about the same time the fruitful discussions of
the Mercersburg controversy were in progress in the Ger-
man Reformed Church. " Mercersburg found fault with
the common style of extemporaneous public prayer, and
advocated a revival of the liturgical church service of the
Reformation period, but so modified and reproduced as to
be adapted to the existing wants of Protestant congrega-
tions." ^ Each of these discussions was followed by a
1 Professor Gerhart, in " Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia," p. 1475.


proposed book of worship. In 1857 was published by-
Mr. Baird " A Book of Public Prayer, Compiled from the
Authorized Formularies of Worship of the Presbyterian
Church, as Prepared by the Reformers, Calvin, Knox,
Bucer, and others " ; and in 1858 was set forth by a com-
mittee of the German Reformed Church " A Liturgy, or
Order of Christian Worship." In 1855 St. Peter's Pres-
byterian Church of Rochester published its " Church-
book," prepared by Mr. L. W. Bacon, then acting as
pastor, which was principally notable for "introducing the
use of the Psalms in parallelisms for responsive reading —
a use which at once found acceptance in many churches,
and has become general in all parts of the country.
Sporadic experiments followed in various individual con-
gregations, looking toward greater variety or greater
dignity or greater musical attractiveness in the services of
public worship, or toward more active participation therein
on the part of the people. But these experiments, con-
ducted without concert or mutual counsel, often without
serious study of the subject, and with a feebly esthetic
purpose, were representative of individual notions, and had
in them no promise of stability or of fruit after their kind.
Only, by the increasing number of them, they have given
proof of an unrest on this subject which at last is begin-
ning to embody itself in organization and concerted study
and enterprise. A fifty years of mere tentative groping
is likely to be followed by another fifty years of substantial

The influence of the Protestant Episcopal Church upon
this growing tendency has been sometimes favorable,
sometimes unfavorable, but always important. To begin
with, it has held up before the whole church an example
of prescribed forms for divine worship, on the whole, the
best in all history. On the other hand, it has drawn to


itself those in other sects whose tastes and tendencies
would make them leaders in the study of liturgies, and
thus while reinforcing itself has hindered the general ad-
vance of improvement in the methods of worship. Withal,
its influence has tended to narrow the discussion to the
consideration of a single provincial and sectarian tradition,
as if the usage of a part of the Christians of the southern
end of one of the islands of the British archipelago had a
sort of binding authority over the whole western continent.
But again, on the other hand, the broadening of its own
views to the extent of developing distinctly diverse ways
of thinking among its clergy and people has enlarged the
r^ field of study once more, and tended to interest the church
\generally in the practical, historical, and theological aspects
^ of the subject. The somewhat timid ventures of " Broad "
and " Evangelical " men in one direction, and the fearless
breaking of bounds in the other direction by those of
"Ritualist" sympathies, have done much to liberate this
important communion from slavish uniformity and indolent
traditionalism ; and within a few years that has been ac-
complished which only a few years earlier would have been
deemed impossible — the considerable alteration and im-
provement of the Book of Common Prayer.

It is safe to prognosticate, from the course of the history
up to this point, that the subject of the conduct of worship
will become more and more seriously a subject of study
in the American church in all its divisions ; that the dis-
cussions thereon arising will be attended with strong
antagonisms of sentiment ; that mutual antagonisms within
the several sects will be compensated by affiliations of men
like-minded across sectarian lines; and that thus, as many
times before, particular controversies will tend to general
union and fellowship.

One topic under this title of Liturgies requires special


mention — the use of music in the church. It was not till
the early part of the eighteenth century that music began
to be cultivated as an art in America.^ Up to that time
" the service of song in the house of the Lord " had con-
sisted, in most worshiping assembHes on this continent, in
the singing of rude literal versifications of the Psalms and
other Scriptures to some eight or ten old tunes handed
down by tradition, and variously sung in various congre-
gations, as modified by local practice. The coming in of
" singing by rule " was nearly coincident with the intro-
duction of Watts's psalms and hymns, and was attended
with like agitations. The singing-school for winter even-
ings became an almost universal social institution; and
there actually grew up an American school of composition,
quaint, rude, and ungrammatical, which had great vogue
toward the end of the last century, and is even now re-
membered by some with admiration and regret. It was
devoted mainly to psalmody tunes of an elaborate sort, in
which the first half-stanza would be sung in plain counter-
point, after which the voices would chase each other about
in a lively imitative movement, coniing out together tri-
umphantly at the close. They abounded in forbidden
progressions and empty chords, but were often character-
ized by fervor of feeling and by strong melodies. A
few of them, as " Lenox " and " Northfield," still linger in
use ; and the productions of this school in general, which
amount to a considerable volume, are entitled to respect-
ful remembrance as the first untutored utterance of music
in America. The use of them became a passionate dehght
to our grandparents ; and the traditions are fresh and vivid
of the great choirs filling the church galleries on three sides,
and tossing the theme about from part to part.

1 " Massachusetts Historical Collections," second series, vol. iv., p. 301 ;
quoted in the " New Englander," vol. xiii., p. 467 (August, 1855).


The use of these rudely artificial tunes involved a
gravely important change in the course of public worship.
In congregations that accepted them the singing necessarily
became an exclusive privilege of the choir. To a lament-
able extent, where there was neither the irregular and
spontaneous ejaculation of the Methodist nor the rubrical
response of the Episcopalian, the people came to be shut
out from audible participation in the acts of public wor-

A movement of musical reform in the direction of greater
simplicity and dignity began early in this century, when
Lowell Mason in Boston and Thomas Hastings in New
York began their multitudinous publications of psalmody.
Between them not less than seventy volumes of music
were published in a period of half as many years. Their
immense and successful fecundity was imitated with less
success by others, until the land was swamped with an
annual flood of church-music books. A thin diluvial
stratum remains to us from that time in tunes, chiefly from
the pen of Dr. Mason, that have taken permanent place
as American chorals. Such pieces as " Boylston," " He-
bron," " Rockingham," " Missionary Hymn," and the
adaptations of Gregorian melodies, " Olmutz " and " Ham-
burg," are not likely to be displaced from their hold on
the American church by more skilled and exquisite com-
positions of later schools. But the fertile labors of the
church musicians of this period were affected by the
market demand for new material for the singing-school,
the large church choir, and the musical convention. The
music thus introduced into the churches consisted not so
much of hymn-tunes and anthems as of '* sacred glees." '

1 This was the criticism of the late Rev. Mr. Havergal, of Worcester Ca-
thedral, to whom Dr. Mason had sent copies of some of his books. The in-
cident was freely told by Dr. Mason himself.


Before the middle of the century the Episcopal Church
had arrived at a point at which it was much looked to
to set the fashions in such matters as church music and
architecture. Its influence at this time was very bad. It
was largely responsible for the fashion, still widely preva-
lent, of substituting for the church choir a quartet of
professional solo singers, and for the degradation of church
music into the dainty, languishing, and sensuous style
which such " artists " do most affect. The period of " The
Grace Church Collection," " Greatorex's Collection," and
the sheet-music compositions of George William Warren
and John R. Thomas was the lowest tide of American
church music.

A healthy reaction from this vicious condition began
about 1855, with the introduction of hymn-and-tune books
and the revival of congregational singing. From that time
the progressive improvement of the public taste may be
traced in the character of the books that have succeeded
one another in the churches, until the admirable composi-
tions of the modern English school of psalmody tend to
predominate above those of inferior quality. It is the
mark of a transitional period that both in church music
and in church architecture we seem to depend much on
compositions and designs derived from older countries.
The future of religious art in America is sufficiently well
assured to leave no cause for hurry or anxiety.

In glancing back over this chapter, it will be strange if
some are not impressed, and unfavorably impressed, with
a disproportion in the names cited as representative, which
are taken chiefly from some two or three sects. This may
justly be referred in part, no doubt, to the author's point
of view and to the " personal equation " ; but it is more
largely due to the fact that in the specialization of the


various sects the work of theological literature and science
has been distinctively the lot of the Congregationalists and
the Presbyterians, and preeminently of the former.i It is
matter of congratulation that the inequality among the
denominations in this respect is in a fair way to be out-

Special mention must be made of the pecuHarly valuable
contribution to the liturgical literature of America that is
made by the oldest of our episcopal churches, the Mora-
vian. This venerable organization is rich not only in the
possession of a heroic martyr history, but in the inheritance
of Hturgic forms and usages of unsurpassed beauty and
dignity. Before the other churches had emerged from a
half-barbarous state in respect to church music, this art
was successfully cultivated in the Moravian communities
and missions. In past times these have had comparatively
few points of contact and influence with the rest of the
church ; but when the elements of a common order of
divine worship shall by and by begin to grow into form,
it is hardly possible that the Moravian traditions will not
enter into it as an important factor.

A combination of conditions which in the case of other
bodies in the church has been an effective discouragement
to Hterary production has applied with especial force to
the Roman Catholic Church in America. First, its energies
and resources, great as they are, have been engrossed by
absolutely prodigious burdens of practical labor; and
secondly, its necessary literary material has been furnished

1 For many generations the religious and theological literature of the
country proceeded almost exclusively, at first or second hand, from New
England. The Presbyterian historian. Professor Robert Ellis Thompson,
remarks that " until after the division of 1837 American Presbyterianism
made no important addition to the literature of theology" (" The Presbyteri-
ans," p. 143). The like observation is true down to a much more recent
date of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Noble progress has been made in
both these denominations in reversing this record.


to it from across the sea, ready to its hand, or needing
only the Hght labor of translation. But these two condi-
tions are not enough, of themselves, to account for the
very meager contribution of the Catholic Church to the
common religious and theological literature of American
Christendom. Neither is the fact explained by the general
low average of culture among the Catholic population ; for
literary production does not ordinarily proceed from the
man of average culture, but from men of superior culture,
such as this church possesses in no small number, and
places in positions of undisturbed " learned leisure " that
would seem in the highest degree promotive of intellectual
work. But the comparative statistics of the Catholic and
the Protestant countries and universities of Germany seem
to prove conclusively that the spirit and discipline of the
Roman Church are unfavorable to literary productiveness
in those large fields of intellectual activity that are common
and free alike to the scholars of all Christendom. It
remains to be seen whether the stimulating atmosphere
and the free and equal competitions of the New World
will not show their invigorating effect in the larger activity
of Catholic scholars, and their liberation from within the
narrow Hnes of polemic and defensive hterature. The
republic of Christian letters has already shown itself prompt
to welcome accessions from this quarter. The signs are
favorable. Notwithstanding severe criticisms of their
methods proceeding from the Catholic press, or rather in
consequence of such criticisms, the Catholic institutions of
higher learning are rising in character and in public respect ;
and the honorable enterprise of establishing at Washington
an American Catholic university, on the upbuilding of
which shall be concentrated the entire intellectual strength
and culture of this church, promises an invigorating influ-
ence that shall extend through that whole system of edu-


cational institutions which the church has set on foot at
immense cost, and not with wholly satisfactory results.

Recent events in the CathoHc Church in America tend
to reassure all minds on an important point on which not
bigots and alarmists only, but liberal-minded citizens
apostoHcally willing to " look not only on their own things
but also on the things of others," have found reasonable
ground for anxiety. The American Catholic Church,

Online LibraryLeonard Woolsey BaconA history of American Christianity → online text (page 31 of 34)