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The Church In Theology And Liter





The rapid review of three crowded centuries, which is all that the
narrowly prescribed limits of this volume have permitted, has
necessarily been mainly restricted to external facts. But looking back
over the course of visible events, it is not impossible for acute minds
devoted to such study to trace the stream of thought and sentiment that
is sometimes hidden from direct view by the overgrowth which itself has
nourished.

We have seen a profound spiritual change, renewing the face of the land
and leaving its indelible impress on successive generations, springing
from the profoundest contemplations of God and his work of salvation
through Jesus Christ, and then bringing back into thoughtful and
teachable minds new questions to be solved and new discoveries of truth
to be pondered. The one school of theological opinion and inquiry that
can be described as characteristically American is the theology of the
Great Awakening. The disciples of this school, in all its divergent
branches, agree in looking back to the first Jonathan Edwards as the
founder of it. Through its generations it has shown a striking sequence
and continuity of intellectual and spiritual life, each generation
answering questions put to it by its predecessor, while propounding new
questions to the generation following. After the classical writings of
its first founders, the most widely influential production of this
school is the Theology Explained and Defended in a Series of Sermons
of President Dwight. This had the advantage over some other systems of
having been preached, and thus proved to be preachable. The series of
sermons was that delivered to successive generations of college
students at Yale at a time of prevailing skepticism, when every
statement of the college pulpit was liable to sharp and not too friendly
scrutiny; and it was preached with the fixed purpose of convincing and
converting the young men who heard it. The audience, the occasion, and
the man--a fervid Christian, and a born poet and orator--combined to
produce a work of wide and enduring influence. The dynasty of the
Edwardeans is continued down to the middle of the nineteenth century,
and later, through different lines, ending in Emmons of Franklin, Taylor
of New Haven, and Finney of Oberlin, and is represented among the living
by the venerable Edwards A. Park, of Andover, who adds to that power of
sustained speculative thinking in a straight line which is
characteristic of the whole school, a wide learning in the whole field
of theological literature, which had not been usual among his
predecessors. It is a prevailing trait of this theology, born of the
great revival, that it has constantly held before itself not only the
question, What is truth? but also the question, How shall it be
preached? It has never ceased to be a revival theology.

A bold and open breach of traditionary assumptions and habits of
reasoning was made by Horace Bushnell. This was a theologian of a
different type from his New England predecessors. He was of a temper
little disposed to accept either methods or results as a local
tradition, and inclined rather to prefer that which had been hammered
out on his own anvil. And yet, while very free in manifesting his small
respect for the logicking by syllogistic processes which had been the
pride of the theological chair and even the pulpit in America, and while
declining the use of current phraseologies even for the expression of
current ideas, he held himself loyally subject to the canon of the
Scriptures as his rule of faith, and deferential to the voice of the
church catholic as uttered in the concord of testimony of holy men in
all ages. Endowed with a poet's power of intuition, uplifted by a fervid
piety, uttering himself in a literary style singularly rich and
melodious, it is not strange that such a man should have made large
contributions to the theological thought of his own and later times. In
natural theology, his discourses on The Moral Uses of Dark Things
(1869), and his longest continuous work, on Nature and the
Supernatural (1858), even though read rather as prose-poems than as
arguments, sound distinctly new notes in the treatment of their theme.
In God in Christ (1849), Christ in Theology (1851), The Vicarious
Sacrifice (1866), and Forgiveness and Law (1874), and in a notable
article in the New Englander for November, 1854, entitled The
Christian Trinity a Practical Truth, the great topics of the Christian
system were dealt with all the more effectively, in the minds of
thoughtful readers in this and other lands, for cries of alarm and
newspaper and pulpit impeachments of heresy that were sent forth. But
that work of his which most nearly made as well as marked an epoch in
American church history was the treatise of Christian Nurture (1847).
This, with the protracted controversy that followed upon the publication
of it, was a powerful influence in lifting the American church out of
the rut of mere individualism that had been wearing deeper and deeper
from the days of the Great Awakening.

Another wholesome and edifying debate was occasioned by the publications
that went forth from the college and theological seminary of the German
Reformed Church, situated at Mercersburg in Pennsylvania. At this
institution was effected a fruitful union of American and German
theology; the result was to commend to the general attention aspects of
truth, philosophical, theological, and historical, not previously
current among American Protestants. The book of Dr. John Williamson
Nevin, entitled The Mystical Presence: A Vindication of the Reformed or
Calvinistic Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, revealed to the vast
multitude of churches and ministers that gloried in the name of
Calvinist the fact that on the most distinctive article of Calvinism
they were not Calvinists at all, but Zwinglians. The enunciation of the
standard doctrine of the various Presbyterian churches excited among
themselves a clamor of Heresy! and the doctrine of Calvin was put upon
trial before the Calvinists. The outcome of a discussion that extended
itself far beyond the boundaries of the comparatively small and
uninfluential German Reformed Church was to elevate the point of view
and broaden the horizon of American students of the constitution and
history of the church. Later generations of such students owe no light
obligation to the fidelity and courage of Dr. Nevin, as well as to the
erudition and immense productive diligence of his associate, Dr. Philip
Schaff.[377:1]

It is incidental to the prevailing method of instruction in theology by
a course of prelections in which the teacher reads to his class in
detail his own original summa theologiĉ, that the American press has
been prolific of ponderous volumes of systematic divinity. Among the
more notable of these systems are those of Leonard Woods (in five
volumes) and of Enoch Pond; of the two Drs. Hodge, father and son; of
Robert J. Breckinridge and James H. Thornwell and Robert L. Dabney; and
the Systematic Theology of a much younger man, Dr. Augustus H. Strong,
of Rochester Seminary, which has won for itself very unusual and wide
respect. Exceptional for ability, as well as for its originality of
conception, is The Republic of God: An Institute of Theology, by
Elisha Mulford, a disciple of Maurice and of the realist philosophy, the
thought of whose whole life is contained in this and his kindred work on
The Nation.

* * * * *

How great is the debt which the church owes to its heretics is
frequently illustrated in the progress of Christianity in America. If it
had not been for the Unitarian defection in New England, and for the
attacks from Germany upon the historicity of the gospels, the
theologians of America might to this day have been engrossed in
threshing old straw in endless debates on fixed fate, free will,
foreknowledge absolute. The exigencies of controversy forced the study
of the original documents of the church. From his entrance upon his
professorship at Andover, in 1810, the eager enthusiasm of Moses Stuart
made him the father of exegetical science not only for America, but for
all the English-speaking countries. His not less eminent pupil and
associate, Edward Robinson, later of the Union Seminary, New York,
created out of nothing the study of biblical geography. Associating with
himself the most accomplished living Arabist, Eli Smith, of the American
mission at Beirût, he made those Biblical Researches in Palestine
which have been the foundation on which all later explorers have built.
Another American missionary, Dr. W. M. Thomson, has given the most
valuable popular exposition of the same subject in his volumes on The
Land and the Book. With the exception of Dr. Henry Clay Trumbull in his
determination of the site of Kadesh-barnea, the American successors to
Robinson in the original exploration of the Bible lands have made few
additions to our knowledge. But in the department of biblical archĉology
the work of Drs. Ward, Peters, and Hilprecht in the mounds of Babylonia,
and of Mr. Bliss in Palestine, has added not a little to the credit of
the American church against the heavy balance which we owe to the
scholarship of Europe.

Monumental works in lexicography have been produced by Dr. Thayer, of
Cambridge, on New Testament Greek; by Professor Francis Brown, of New
York, in conjunction with Canon Driver, of Oxford, on the languages of
the Old Testament; and by Dr. Sophocles, of Cambridge, on the Byzantine
Greek.

In the work of the textual criticism of the Scriptures, notwithstanding
its remoteness from the manuscript sources of study, America has
furnished two names that are held in honor throughout the learned world:
among the recent dead, Ezra Abbot, of Cambridge, universally beloved and
lamented; and among the living, Caspar René Gregory, successor to the
labors and the fame of Tischendorf. A third name is that of the late Dr.
Isaac H. Hall, the successful collator of Syriac New Testament
manuscripts.

In those studies of the higher criticism which at the present day are
absorbing so much of the attention of biblical scholars, and the
progress of which is watched with reasonable anxiety for their bearing
on that dogma of the absolute inerrancy of the canonical Scriptures
which has so commonly been postulated as the foundation of Protestant
systems of revealed theology, the American church has taken eager
interest. An eminent, and in some respects the foremost, place among the
leaders in America of these investigations into the substructure, if not
of the Christian faith, at least of the work of the system-builders, is
held by Professor W. H. Green, of Princeton, whose painstaking essays in
the higher criticism have done much to stimulate the studies of younger
men who have come out at conclusions different from his own. The works
of Professors Briggs, of Union Seminary, and Henry P. Smith, of Lane
Seminary, have had the invaluable advantage of being commended to public
attention by ecclesiastical processes and debates. The two volumes of
Professor Bacon, of Yale, have been recognized by the foremost scholars
of Great Britain and Germany as containing original contributions toward
the solution of the problem of Pentateuchal analysis. The intricate
critical questions presented by the Book of Judges have been handled
with supreme ability by Professor Moore, of Andover, in his commentary
on that book. A desideratum in biblical literature has been well
supplied by Professor Bissell, of Hartford, in a work on the Old
Testament Apocrypha. But the magnum opus of American biblical
scholarship, associating with itself the best learning and ability of
other nations, is the publication, under the direction of Professor
Haupt, of Baltimore, of a critical text of the entire Scriptures in the
original languages, with new translations and notes, for the use of
scholars.

The undeniably grave theological difficulties occasioned by the results
of critical study have given rise to a novel dogma concerning the
Scriptures, which, if it may justly be claimed as a product of the
Princeton Seminary, would seem to discredit the modest boast of the
venerated Dr. Charles Hodge, that Princeton has never originated a new
idea. It consists in the hypothesis of an original autograph of the
Scriptures, the precise contents of which are now undiscoverable, but
which differed from any existing text in being absolutely free from
error of any kind. The hypothesis has no small advantage in this, that
if it is not susceptible of proof, it is equally secure from refutation.
If not practically useful, it is at least novel, and on this ground
entitled to mention in recounting the contributions of the American
church to theology at a really perilous point in the progress of
biblical study.

* * * * *

The field of church history, aside from local and sectarian histories,
was late in being invaded by American theologians. For many generations
the theology of America was distinctly unhistorical, speculative, and
provincial. But a change in this respect was inevitably sure to come.
The strong propensity of the national mind toward historical studies is
illustrated by the large proportion of historical works among the
masterpieces of our literature, whether in prose or in verse. It would
seem as if our conscious poverty in historical monuments and traditions
had engendered an eager hunger for history. No travelers in ancient
lands are such enthusiasts in seeking the monuments of remote ages as
those whose homes are in regions not two generations removed from the
prehistoric wilderness. It was certain that as soon as theology should
begin to be taught to American students in its relation to the history
of the kingdom of Christ, the charm of this method would be keenly felt.

We may assume the date of 1853 as an epoch from which to date this new
era of theological study. It was in that year that the gifted, learned,
and inspiring teacher, Henry Boynton Smith, was transferred from the
chair of history in Union Theological Seminary, New York, to the chair
of systematic theology. Through his premature and most lamented death
the church has failed of receiving that system of doctrine which had
been hoped for at his hands. But the historic spirit which characterized
him has ever since been characteristic of that seminary. It is
illustrative of the changed tone of theologizing that after the death of
Professor Smith, in the reorganization of the faculty of that important
institution, it was manned in the three chief departments, exegetical,
dogmatic, and practical, by men whose eminent distinction was in the
line of church history. The names of Hitchcock, Schaff, and Shedd cannot
be mentioned without bringing to mind some of the most valuable gifts
that America has made to the literature of the universal church. If to
these we add the names of George Park Fisher, of Yale, and Bishop Hurst,
and Alexander V. G. Allen, of Cambridge, author of The Continuity of
Christian Thought, and Henry Charles Lea, of Philadelphia, we have
already vindicated for American scholarship a high place in this
department of Christian literature.

* * * * *

In practical theology the productiveness of the American church in the
matter of sermons has been so copious that even for the briefest
mention some narrow rule of exclusion must be followed. There is no
doubt that in a multitude of cases the noblest utterances of the
American pulpit, being unwritten, have never come into literature, but
have survived for a time as a glowing memory, and then a fading
tradition. The statement applies to many of the most famous revival
preachers; and in consequence of a prevalent prejudice against the
writing of sermons, it applies especially to the great Methodist and
Baptist preachers, whose representation on the shelves of libraries is
most disproportionate to their influence on the course of the kingdom
of Christ. Of other sermons,--and good sermons,--printed and published,
many have had an influence almost as restricted and as evanescent as the
utterances of the pulpit improvisator. If we confine ourselves to those
sermons that have survived their generation or won attention beyond the
limits of local interest or of sectarian fellowship, the list will not
be unmanageably long.

In the early years of the nineteenth century the Unitarian pulpits of
Boston were adorned with every literary grace known to the rhetoric of
that period. The luster of Channing's fame has outshone and outlasted
that of his associates; and yet these were stars of hardly less
magnitude. The two Wares, father and son, the younger Buckminster, whose
singular power as a preacher was known not only to wondering hearers,
but to readers on both sides of the ocean, Gannett and Dewey--these were
among them; and, in the next generation, Henry W. Bellows, Thomas Starr
King, and James Freeman Clarke. No body of clergy of like size was ever
so resplendent with talents and accomplishments. The names alone of
those who left the Unitarian pulpit for a literary or political
career--Sparks, Everett, Bancroft, Emerson, Ripley, Palfrey, Upham,
among them--are a constellation by themselves.

To the merely literary critic those earnest preachers, such as Lyman and
Edward Beecher, Griffin, Sereno Dwight, Wayland, and Kirk, who felt
called of God to withstand, in Boston, this splendid array of not less
earnest men, were clearly inferior to their antagonists. But they were
successful.

A few years later, the preëminent 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 honorable 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 questions.

The early American theology was, as we have seen, a rhetorical and not a
merely scholastic theology--a theology to be preached.[384:1] 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 most
enduring attention, will find that it is to a large extent apologetic,
addressing itself to the abating of doubts and objections to the
Christian system, or, recognizing the existing doubts, urging the
religious duties that are nevertheless incumbent on the doubting mind.
It has ceased to assume the substantial soundness of the hearer in the
main principles of orthodox opinion, and regards him as one to be held
to the church by attraction, persuasion, or argument. 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 in danger of being
dull; his peril lies at the other extreme. His temptation is rather to
the feebleness of extravagant statement, and to an overstrained and
theatric rhetoric 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
economy 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 somewhat to do in the matter, has been settling
itself deeply into the minds of Christian believers. The 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
history to be written under this head, but somewhat of prophecy. 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
founding 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.[386:1] 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 off 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.[386:2] 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 versification of psalms and other Scriptures for
singing. The emancipation of the church from its bondage to an
artificial 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.[387:1] After the Revolution, at the
request of the General Association of Connecticut and the General
Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, Timothy Dwight completed the work
of Watts by versifying a few omitted psalms,[387:2] 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 Hastings 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 affections of Christian worshipers. 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 England. To
American Presbyterians in general it was something 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
worship. At about the same time the fruitful discussions of the
Mercersburg controversy were in progress in the German 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 congregations.[388:1] Each of these
discussions was followed by a 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 committee of the German Reformed Church A Liturgy,
or Order of Christian Worship. In 1855 St. Peter's Presbyterian 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 congregations, 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, conducted 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 beginning 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 progress.

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 liturgics, and thus while reinforcing itself has hindered the
general advance 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 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 accomplished which only a few years earlier would have
been deemed impossible--the considerable alteration and improvement 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 discussions 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 Liturgics 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.[391:1] Up to that time the service of song in the house of the
Lord had consisted, in most worshiping assemblies 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 congregations, as modified by local practice.
The coming in of singing by rule was nearly coincident with the
introduction of Watts's psalms and hymns, and was attended with like
agitations. The singing-school for winter evenings 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 remembered 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 counterpoint, after which the voices would chase each other about
in a lively imitative movement, coming out together triumphantly at the
close. They abounded in forbidden progressions and empty chords, but
were often characterized 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 respectful remembrance as the first untutored
utterance of music in America. The use of them became a passionate
delight 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.

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 lamentable 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 worship.

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, Hebron, Rockingham, Missionary Hymn,
and the adaptations of Gregorian melodies, Olmutz and Hamburg, are
not likely to be displaced from their hold on the American church by
more skilled and exquisite compositions 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.[392:1]

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 prevalent,
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 compositions
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 preëminently of the
former.[394:1] It is matter of congratulation that the inequality among
the denominations in this respect is in a fair way to be outgrown.

Special mention must be made of the peculiarly valuable contribution to
the liturgical literature of America that is made by the oldest of our
episcopal churches, the Moravian. This venerable organization is rich
not only in the possession of a heroic martyr history, but in the
inheritance of liturgic 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 literary 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 to it from
across the sea, ready to its hand, or needing only the light labor of
translation. But these two conditions 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 lines of
polemic and defensive literature. 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 influence
that shall extend through that whole system of educational institutions
which the church has set on foot at immense cost, and not with wholly
satisfactory results.

Recent events in the Catholic Church in America tend to reassure all
minds on an important point on which not bigots and alarmists only, but
liberal-minded citizens apostolically 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, while characterized in
all its ranks, in respect of loyal devotion to the pope, by a high type
of ultramontane orthodoxy, is to be administered on patriotic American
principles. The brief term of service of Monsignor Satolli as papal
legate clothed with plenipotentiary authority from the Roman see stamped
out the scheme called from its promoter Cahenslyism, which would have
divided the American Catholic Church into permanent alien communities,
conserving each its foreign language and organized under its separate
hierarchy. The organization of parishes to be administered in other
languages than English is suffered only as a temporary necessity. The
deadly warfare against the American common-school system has abated. And
the anti-American denunciations contained in the bull and syllabus of
December 8, 1864, are openly renounced as lacking the note of
infallibility.[396:1]

Of course, as in all large communities of vigorous vitality, there will
be mutually antagonist parties in this body; but it is hardly to be
doubted that with the growth and acclimatization of the Catholic Church
in America that party will eventually predominate which is most in
sympathy with the ruling ideas of the country and the age.





Next: Tendencies Toward A Manifestatio

Previous: After The War



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