Page images
PDF
EPUB

graduation with honors from the University of the City of New York. The faculties which would have made him the greatest jury advocate of the age were, however, preserved for and directed toward the pulpit by an unrest which took the very sound of a cry within him for months, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.” When he submitted to it the always ardent but never urged hopes of his honored parents were realized. He entered the ministry from the New Brunswick Seminary of Theology. As his destiny and powers came to manifestation in Brooklyn, his pastoral life prior to that was but a preparation for it. It can, therefore, be indicated as an incidental stage in his career rather than treated at length A8 & principal part of it. IIis first settlement was at Belleville, on the beautiful Passaic, in New Jersey. For three years there be underwent an excellent practical education in the conventional ministry. His congregation was about the most cultivated and exacting in the rural regions of the sterling little state. Historically, it was known to be about the oldest society of Protestantism in New Jersey. Its records, as preserved, run back over 200 years, but it is known to have had a strong life the better part of a century more. Its structnre is regarded as one of the finest of any country congregation in the United States. No wonder: it stands within rifleshot of the quarry from which Old Trinity in New York was hewn. The value (and the limits) of stereotyped preaching and what he did not know came as ap ingtructive and disillųsionizing force to the theological tyr at Belleville. There also came and remained strong friendships, inspiring revivals, and sacred counsels.

By natural promotion three years at Syracuse 800ceeded three at Belleville. That cultivated, critical city furnished Mr. Talmage the value of an audience in which professional men were predominant in influence. His preaching there grew tonic and free. As Mr. Pitt advised a young friend, he “risked himself.” The church grew from few to many--from a state of coma to athletic life. The preacher learned to go to school to humanity and his own heart. The lessons they taught him agreed with what was boldest and most compelling in the spirit of the revealed Word. Those whose claims were sacred to him found the saline climate of Syracuse & cause of unhealth. Otherwise it is likely that that most delightful region in the United States--Central New York--for men of letters who equally love nature and culture, would have been the home of Mr. Talmage for life.

The next seven years of Mr. Talmage's life were spent in Philadelphia. There his powers got "set.” He learned what it was he could best do. He had the courage of bis consciousness and be did it. Previously he might have felt it incumbent on him to give to pulpit traditions the homage of compliance-though at Syracuse “the more excellent way," any man's own way, so that he have the divining gift of genius and the nature a-tune to all high sympathies and purposes--had in glimpses come to him. He realized that it was his duty and mistion in the world to make it hear the gospel. The church was no to him in numbers a select few, in organization & monopoly. It was meant to be the conqueror and transformer of the world. For seven years he wronght with much success on this theory, all the time realizing that his plans could come to fullness only under conditions that enabled him to build from the bottom up an organization which could get nearer to the masses and which would have no precedents to be afraid of as ghosts in its path. Hence he ceased from being the leading preacher in Philadelphia to become in Brooklyn the leading preacher in the world.

His work for nine years here, know all onr readers. It began in a cramped brick rectangle, capable of hold. ing 1,200, and he came to it on "the call” of nineteen. In less than two years that was exchanged for an iron structure, with raised seats, the interior curved like a horse-shoe, the pulpit a platform bridging the ends. That held 3,000 persons. It lasted just long enough to revolutionize church architecture in cities into harmony with common sense. Smaller duplicates of it started in every quarter, three in Brooklyn, two in New York, one in Montreal, one in Louisville, any number in Chicago, two in San Francisco, like numbers abroad. Then it burnt up, that from its ashes the present stately and most sensible structure might rise. Gothic, of brick and stone, caths dral-like above, amphitheatre-like below, it holds 5,000 As easily as one person, and all can hear and see equally woll. In a large sense the people built these edificos.

BIOGRAPHIOAL.

Their architects were Leonard Vanx and John Welch respectively. It is sufficiently indicative to say in general of Dr. Talmage's work in the Tabernacle, that his audiences are always as many as the place will hold; that twenty-three papers in Christendom statedly publish his entire sermons and Friday-night discourses, exclusive of the dailies of the United States; that the paper girdle the globe, being published in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Belfast, Toronto, Montreal, St. John's, Sidney, Melbourne, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Raleigh, New York, and many others. To palpit labors of this responsibility should be added considerable pastoral work, the conduct of the Lay College, and constantly recurring lecturing and literary work, to fill out the public life of a very busy man.

The multiplicity, large results and striking progress of the labors of Dr. Talmage have made the foregoing more of a brief narrative of the epochs of his career than an account of the career itself. It has had to be

Lack of space requires it. His work has had rather to be intimated in generalities than told in details. The filling in must come either from the knowledge of the reader or from intelligent inferences and conclusions, drawn from the few principal facts stated, and stated with care.

This remains to be said: No other preacher addresses so many constantly. The words of no other preacher were ever before carried by so many types or carried so far. Types give him three continents for a church, and the English-Apeaking world for a congrega

i

BO.

The press

tion. The judgment of his generation will of conrse be divided upon him just as that of the next will not. That he is a topic in every newspaper is much more significant than the fact of what treatment it gives him. Only men of genius are universally commented on. The universality of the comment makes friends and foes alike prove the fact of the genius. That is what is impressive. As for the quality of the comment, it will, in nine cases out of ten, be much more a revelation of the character behind the pen which writes it than a true view or review of the man. This is necessarily so. and the pulpit in the main are defective judges of one another. The former rarely enters the inside of the latter's work. There is acquaintanceship, but not intimacy between thein. Journals find out the fact of & preacher's power in time. Then they go looking for the causes Long before, however, the masses have felt the causes and have realized, not merely discovered, the fact. The penalty of being the leaders of great masses bus, from Whitefield and Wesley to Spurgeon and Talinage, been to serve as the target for sinall wits.

A constant source of attack on men of such magnitude always has been and will be the presses, which, by the common consent of mankind, are described and dispensed from all consid eration, when they are rated Satanic. Their attacks confirm a man's right to respect and reputation, and are a proof of his influence and greatness. It can be truly said that while secular criticism in the United States favorably regards our subject in proportion to iti intal

« PreviousContinue »