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secured. Society is advantaged in proportion as the powers of the individual citizen are inatured. And in the divine economy consecrated intelligence and intellectual activity are among the means of the Church's equipment. A communion having a special mission to the masses will not seek to give the best expression of religious life, loyalty, and fidelity, independent of the intellectual awakening and instruction of its adherents.
The literary creed of the Church is best illustrated by its literary enterprise and success. At an early day Wesley determined to use the press as a co-ordinate arm of power in his evangelistic work. The English Wesleyan Book Establishment was founded in 1739, within ten years after a few students of Oxford University formed a society for the more careful study of the Holy Scriptures and for mutual spiritual improvement. In 1789, within five years after the organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church, its publishing house, strangely entitled Book Concern, began what has since proved to be a wonderful history. But the appreciation of the importance of the press was manifest years before the organization and dates here named. Wherever Methodism had extended, the fathers, both by precept and example, were zealous either in the preparation or diffusion of a religious literature and other forms of useful knowledge.
Why did Wesley use the press ? To his practical mind it at once became apparent that evangelistic Christianity not only awakens intellectual activity but must also supply the demands, the cravings, of that activity. He also saw that popular literature was tainted with a flavor unfriendly to religious development; that the press was a necessity to fortify the Church in its progressive work, and to defend it against the attack of its enemies; and that the press, rightly conducted, was a cooperating evangelizing influence in the work of the Church.
The fathers of American Methodism soon saw not only these same needs existing in this country, but also the imperative necessity of an intelligent, moral citizenship. The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized soon after the close of the Revolutionary War. Then began the mighty exodus from the old world of the uneducated populations. These, combined with our native population, made it imperative that they should be educated and religiously trained in order that the
nation might suffer no harm. “It is to the honor of Methodism, as it was congenial to its republican sentiments, that it at once began to supply the intellectual and moral needs of both the emigrant and native populations ;” and while the political fathers have proclaimed the universality of the rights of man, the pulpit and press of Methodism have proclaimed with unwonted emphasis the doctrine of universal redemption. The enterprise and aggressive spirit of the Church in its literary ventures are manifest in the circulation of its literature. It has bridged the gap between the publisher and the people. The clergy first saw and felt the need of a literature. They established facilities for its publication ; they assumed the necessary risks and became responsible proprietors; their pens duced most of its volumes and periodicals, and they individually and directly have carried it to those for whose comfort and enlightenment it was designed; and in this way the Church has produced and distributed a literature in harmony with its "doctrines, usages, economy, and mission.”
A few general statements will indicate the magnitude of our Church's literary enterprise. It is seen, first, in the difficulties our publishing interests have overcome. They have withstood and prospered in spite of poverty, debt, controversies, unfriendly criticism, change of business location, fire, and division of property. Second, in the financial gains of these interests. They began on six hundred dollars of borrowed capital; now their assets amonnt to nearly or about three millions. This large sun could have been doubled if the annual income had not been taxed by manifold Church demands. These publishing inter. ests began in rented property in obscure localities, now they own palatial blocks on the highways and broadways of trade in the great cominercial centers. Third, in the growth and distribution of our literature. The first catalogue of our Book Concern was a single leaf, six and a half inches long and one half as wide, and contained a list of twenty-eight books and pamphlets. The last catalogue is a royal octavo, containing the titles of several hundred volumes. The books of the first catalogue were mostly, if not all, of English anthorship. Now there are hundreds of American ministers, laymen, and gifted women, writing books and contributing to our peri
One generation passed away after the organiza52--FIFTH SERIES, VOL. V.
tion of the Church before our periodical literature had a successful beginning. Now our several official weeklies aggregate a circulation of more than two hundred thousand copies, while the amount of our missionary, Sunday-school, and tract literature is alınost beyond intelligent belief. All this, as has been said, " Is a monument of the enterprise of the ministry, an honor to the Church, a masterly defense of the general intelligence, literary tastes, and reading habits of our people.” We might add, and, we think, ought to add, to all this the unwritten liter. ature of Methodism. The expression, "unwritten literature," may seem paradoxical. But Professor Phelps has said that thought moving other minds at the will of him who utters it is literature; or, that whatever is power in thonght, as expressed in language, is literature ; and he deliberately affirms that the weightiest literature is spoken, not written. This is evidently true of Methodism. Very little, comparatively, of its thought -of its forcible, effective thought-has ever found its way to the press. The extempore habit of preaching, the exhortations inspired by great occasions, the constant study of adaptation to new audiences and demands, and the intellectual quickening and concentration resulting from the people's sympathy, and, above all, froin the Spirit's leadings, have called forth the most expressive and effective utterances that ever fell from human lips. It is said that Walter Scott talked more poetry, and Edmund Burke more eloquence, than they ever wrote. We venture to say that Methodism, because of its peculiar genius, spirit, and work, has talked or spoken more truth, more orig. inal, comprehensive, penetrative, and persuasive truth, than the authors of all its books and periodicals have ever written.
The fathers were students of one book.* They read others, but the reading was designed to lead to a more clear comprehension of the Bible.
They were students, too, of subjects, of leading subjects, and to these they gave exhaustive study and full development of treatment; and to all controverted questions involving Bible study they gave the most careful, if not always the most scholarly, elaboration. The ecclesiastical controversies led to the inost patient and attentive research, the most precise forms of
The Higher Critics deny that the Bible is “one book." What would the fathers say?-EDITOR.
statement, and the most logical presentation of argument. It is no disparagement to sister denominations to say that Methodism has been unequaled in the power of its unwritten or unpublished literature over the masses.
The organization of the Church Lyceum at the General Conference of 1876 is expressive of the increasing interest Methodism has in the mental improvement of its people. By this action it is made the duty of the Quarterly Conference of each Church society, wherever practicable, to organize a lyceum, and for it to provide a library of text books and reference books, and to popnlarize religious literature by reading-rooms and otherwise. The Church is made the teacher, or the supervisor of the teacher, of the people, that they may be stimulated to grow in knowledge as well as in
SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF METHODIST LITERATURE.
1. Methodism has furnished a literature of substantial and permanent value. President Porter has divided religious books into four classes: the good-meaning the very good ; the goodish, the good for nothing, and books which are worse than nothing. We have no doubt that a thorough sifting process would find each class represented in Methodist literature. Examples of the last class are exceedingly rare. Of the good for nothing class we certainly have some; of the goodish class by far too many; but we congratulate ourselves that in the good (the very good) we have cause for rejoicing. Methodism, born in a college, and cradled by men eminent for learning, has always had in its communion writers of ripe scholarship and original thought. Theologians of erninent rank adorned its earliest years. Giants in controversy have appeared all along the line of the past, and to-day writers of acknowledged ability are productive in the fields of theology, biblical exegesis, philosophy, and metaphysics, as well as in the easier departments of literature; writers who are read and studied with reverence by the most thoughtful of all the Churches, and of the land.
The subjects treated, as well as the ability of the writers, characterize our literature as one of high grade : subjects involving the great questions of the divine character-Ilis relations to man and his purposes concerning man, and man's nature, duty, and destiny. It has been more than intimated that a truly evangelistic Church, a people earnestly religions, can produce only an inferior literature, if any at all. Upon the other hand, the history of religious literature shows that it degenerates as religious earnestness decays. It is only when a fervent faith and an ardent zeal have aroused man's noblest energies in the contemplation of the highest themes that eloquence becomes overpowering, poetry sublime, and logic irresistible.
Methodist literature in its best form is one of inspiration, not made to order. It is one of originality and freshness. Its authors have the stamp of individuality, and have stimulated the thought of the Churches; and educational enterprises and intellectual activity have followed in its wake.
2. Methodisın has a symmetrical or well-balanced literature. We do not mean to say that all forms of literature have an equal place; but we mean to say it is not meager in any department which a Church is expected to produce. The theological, biblical, doctrinal, historical, biographical, devotional, and periodical forms have been brought to some degree of maturity. But what we mean to say further is, that Methodist literature has the true elements, many of the most commendable elements, of English literature; elements that distinguish English from continental literature. For example, it has an aversion to extremes of opinion, it revolts from excesses, opposites are well balanced in it; it never surges this way and then that, as if the Church had run mad for want of mental ballast. The different departments of church work in their utterances bave not been in conflict. The same theology and morality have been taught in our schools of learning, fostered by our pulpits and press, and sung in our hymnology. In all these many lines Methodism teaches the same lessons of truth, exalts both the moral and intellectual, moderating all passionate opinions, and restraining all unhealthy tendencies.
3. Methodism has produced a popular literature, a literature for the people. The burden of its mission has been the training of all the people. If it had sought simply to produce a literature perfect in style, attractive in imagery and eloquent in feeling, its literary reputation might have been greater; but it has preferred to be clear in statement, convincing in argument, spiritual in tone, and practical in application. It has sought to advantage the many rather than to gratify the pride of the few.