Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

ence.

papers. In many cases, therefore, they represent but little of the general christian sentiment. How shall the thousands, under whose authority they go forth, influence their weekly contents? They are in fact, in the end, the pictures of the minds of their editors. They control not only the editorial department-which is the soul of the paper, if it has any— but also the selections, and, in a way little limited, also the correspondThus they hold the power, if they choose to employ it, of virtually silencing every spirit but their own. In this way the general mind which they fail to represent may be, and often is, kept at bay, while the vast remainder of the material which they reach, being negative or pliable, is molded instead of represented by the papers. This is the more easily done, owing to the strange practical delusion into which we unconsciously fall, which causes us to imagine that what appears in the organ of a church is in fact the sentiment of that church as a whole, and of all its readers. The voice of the editor is lost as an individual, and we listen to him as to the voice of his audience. Let any one put this kind of practical imposition to a personal test, and he will see how much he is unsconciously under its power. How naturally do we, for instance, read an ungracious sentiment embodied in the editorial of a church organ, issued by another denomination than our own, as though it were an unkindness or offense from the whole body which that organ professedly represents; and yet that same editorial may represent not a single mind in that church but that of the editor.

These observations may serve to show what an amount of power is thus actually in the hands of the editors of religious papers; and how the animus of these organs, in whole or in part, will be found at last identical with the animus of individual editors. True, it may be supposed that the editors are themselves often the mold of the denominations which have created the organs which they control-and there is to an extent room for this allowance-yet, after due weight is given to this restraint, there is still a wide freedom, and a momentous individual power, which enjoys unmolested range beyond.

It will at once be seen and admitted, that a power of such immense sweep should be conferred in the most deliberate, cautious, and prayerful spirit; and should be guarded with the greatest vigilnace, jealousy, wisdom, and concern. There is scarcely any other appointment that should be made with greater solemnity, and under a deeper sense of vast interests involved. Qualifications are evidently demanded which are not to be found at random, but which are "few and far between." Whether the church in general has been, and is now, adequately impressed on this momentous point, we confess is doubtful to our mind. We do not believe that the different branches of the church exercise that care over their organs which is demanded in view of the vast influence which they do and might exert.

We very much mistake the character and christian spirit of the American church if the religious press truly reflects the general religious mind. We fail entirely to interpret the undertones of our christian life, if there is not widely and deeply felt a mournful degeneracy in the tone, spirit, and substance of religious newspapers, and if there is not a general need, as well as a general desire, for a great reform. In giving utterance to these sentiments, we protest that we give our own individua]

[ocr errors]

views. If we supposed this, we would not have written a line on the subject; on the contrary, we most confidently pronounce what we have no doubt is the silent voice of the general christian mind and heart, as it utters itself in many a thoughtful heart, and in many private circles.

What ought a religious newspaper to be? If we answer to ourselves this question, even in a most general way, we shall at once become painfully conscious of the reigning degeneracy and defect in regard to this point.

What ought a religious newspaper to be? What would we expect it to be if it were proposed for the first time to send one into our family? In one word, it ought to be a saint-a christian! Its life ought to be the warm life of a christian. Its spirit ought to be the holy spirit of a saint-like the spirit of John! Its love ought to be the serene character of a saint. Prayer, praise, thanksgiving, cheerful hope, affectionate instruction ought to breathe on its whole surface. The fruits of the spirit ought to hang in clusters in its columns. The graces of the spirit ought to garland every sentence and sentiment. It ought to lie on our table redolent with the fragrance, and radiant with the light, and rich with the love of heaven.

Have we drawn the portrait of a religious paper correctly? Plainly this, as nearly as it can be reached, ought to be its character. Is any approximation to this spirit realized in the religious press of the present time? We answer painfully, but without hesitation, we believe not. If it be asked in what manner this spirit is sinned against, we find no difficulty in giving answer in pointing out what all will feel to be most lamentable defections from this standard.

Shall we bear testimony on this point? Then we at present refer only to one feature: To the prominent secular spirit which reigns in many of them, and in all more or less. Secular not only in the way of general news, but even in the way of political news, amounting often to evident party proclivities-suppressing the one side and dilating on the other in the selection of items. Some even carry their sectional and party preference so far as to give to their paper a political animus. Thus the reader, who should be piously disposed by what he reads, has his mind averted, if not even excited, by these "items" selected from the secular press, and almost always penned under strong party prejudices. Secular news is taken up as it comes hastily and under excitement from some point in the Dailies, and before the slow Weekly reaches its readers, is contradicted by authenticated facts, showing that a particular coloring had been given to it for party purposes. The man now who takes up the religious paper of his church is already posted up on both sides, and consequently item after item in the "secular department" strikes a hot brand into his feelings. How shall it be avoided, does any one ask? It may be avoided by letting the whole business alone. What! shall religious papers contain no secular news? We answer they cannot contain news in the nature of the case. News, nowa-days, comes by dailies and tri-weeklies-yea, by morning and evening papers, not by weeklies. It is truly amusing to read, two weeks after it is all over, that "Sebastopol has been taken;" or to receive the "President's Message" in due form, column after column, long after the county papers have sent it into every nook and corner of the townships.

There is therefore no call for secular news in a religious paper on the plea either of necessity or accommodation to the readers.

Suppose even it were desirable as a convenience, is it proper in this way to mix up the religious and secular. Is it not a kind of conformity and succumbing to the spirit and taste of the world? The secular is important, but only in its place; and there it ought to be kept. Why should Cæsar, to say nothing of the world, parade his temporal business in God's paper? Two articles of food may be very palatable and wholesome when eaten separately which would neither be for health or comfort when mixed.

How often, too, does this secular feature of religious papers take the form of positive diversion and fun. Jokes and repartee are not uncommon. Granting that there is "a time to laugh," that time is certainly not when one is endeavoring to edify his spirit in the reading of a religious newspaper. It is the same as bringing a harlequin into a solemn assembly. There is a place for wit, humor, and smart sayings, but not in a religious newspaper.

How often, again, is an amusing vein, and a whole chain of positive fun, made to animate an entire communication, even when it professes to treat on a subject solemn in itself. Thus sacred things are treated with lightness. So common is this that it is scarcely possible to pick up a paper at random without falling upon an article of this kind. In many cases wit endeavors to show off even by allusion to a particular quotation of some scripture passage. No one who is at all read in our current religious papers will fail instantly to justify this remark and acknowledge its force.

The same secular spirit to which we have alluded, runs also through the advertising columns. Certainly the advantages of a religious paper ought to have some important accordance with the spirit of the paper. How common, however, is it to find columns devoted to business interests that have no more connection with religion than has a millstone, or a box of pills. Who has not seen quack-medicine advertisements in religious papers that not only flourished all the humbugging boasts to catch the ear and inspire the wonder of the ignorant, but presented all the positive indelicacies and even vulgarities which are so common in the silly twaddle of quackdom. How edifying to children!

We find even that the common catch-penny impositions from our cities are encouraged by some of our religious papers; or at least such as may be the worst kind of impositions, for all the reader knows Who does not know that thousands are allured into the hands of impostors through advertisements like the following, which we cut from the religious paper which is at the moment of writing nearest to us:

WANTED!! MAKE MONEY WHEN YOU CAN.

The subscribers desire to procure the undivided time of an Agent in every County in the United States. Efficient and capable men may make several dollars per day, without risk or humbuggery of any kind. Full particulars of the nature of the business will be given by addressing the subscribers, and forwarding ONE Post Office Stamp to prepay return postage.

& CO., Philadelphia, Pa. They are little posted up in the ways of modern humbug who suppose that this mysterious advertisement will not be responded to by thou

sands who want to "make money when they can." Suppose it is some business at which "several dollars per day" may be made, who knows that it is not some scheme to circulate the very vilest corruption! If it should be nothing at all, each letter stamp will put three cents into the hand of the advertisers. Small as the sum is, it will bring in enough to pay the advertising, and besides this, a boarding bill every week at least, which is an attainment not to be despised! If it is any thing that may live in the light, why does it put the veil of mystery over its face? Ought such doubtful schemes, of which darkness is the element, live in the bosom of a religious paper? This is designed only as a specimen of its kind.

Do these observations not justify the remark that our religious papers have degenerated under the influence of a secular spirit? This, however, as we believe, is the gentlest charge that can be made. We have much more grievous defects and evils to point out, which, on account of the length of our present article, we must defer till next month. Meanwhile let it be remembered that we speak only of religious papers in general, in regard to which we are confident our remarks will be received as neither uncharitable or unjust. Wherever there are individual exceptions, in whole or in part, to them we do not wish our strictures to apply,

Nor let it be thought that we undervalue religious papers. We have already spoken of the mighty influence which it is in their power to exert. We ask only for a reformation, not a destruction: and for the accomplishment of this end, if we wish one thing more than another, it is that our voice might go much farther than we have any hope that it will reach.

GONE HOME.

THOMAS JEFFERSON GROSS.-This excellent young man, for several years one of the assistant Teachers of the Allentown Seminary, on the 14th of February last departed this life at the early age of 20 years, 6 months and 18 days. It was touching to see the whole school, to the pupils of which he had greatly endeared himself, follow his remains to the Cemetery, bearing in their hands bunches of evergreen, which they cast into his grave-at once a mark of their affection, and an emblem of their hope in the blessed resurrection. What an example to the young! This youth was yet in the early morning of life, and yet, by his piety and his industry in the service of others, he bound many hearts to his, and his grave is illumined with love and hope.

MAN AND WOMAN

As unto the bow the cord is,

So unto the man is woman,

Though she bends him, she obeys him,

Though she draws him, yet she follows,
Useless each without the other.-SONG OF HIAWATHA.

GOOD FRIDAY.

FROM THE GERMAN-BY THE EDITOR.

GRADUALLY the sound of the church bells died away on the air. The multitude of devout worshippers flowed forth from the house of God, and quietly dispersed, and a deep, solemn stillness proclaimed that holy Good-Friday evening had come. Dark and heavy over the earth hung the clouded heaven, and the pulse of nature scarcely awakened from the sleep of winter, seemed again to pause in fear and earnest expectation.

Anxiously the careful Pastor's wife sought the airy balcony of the parsonage view the rising storm in th West. Here she perceived Minona, her tender blooming daughter leaning upon the railing, gazing out into the dim distance. Her eyes were filled with tears!

"What saddens you thus, my beloved?" asked the kind-hearted mother, as she took the hand of her sorrowing child.

But Minona said, "only let me weep, beloved mother, till my tears shall moisten the earth which once drank the innocent blood of the holiest Love! See! I have meditated on the time when the Godhead was a pilgrim on earth in human form. I have thought on that time of infinite blessing when the Eternal manifested himself to the gaze of mortal eyes. Bowed in deepest prayer my spirit was absorbed in the greatness of the offering, the remembrance of which we this day renew, while we call to mind that divine art which no human mind can fathom or exhaust and I shed blessed tears!"

Silently the mother pressed her child to her bosom, and Minona continued: "Let us, my dear mother, remain here yet a while longer. My spirit is full of sacred sorrow and longing; and here on this balcony it seems as if we were nearer heaven, where the Divine Saviour is, who has so infinitely loved us."

They sat by each other's side, and looked forth silently over the landscape. Closer and still more close the clouds drew together, and a sweltry breeze like that which precedes a thundergust moved the tops of the trees.

"What a gloomy stillness," began Minona. "So, perhaps, did the heavens mourn as they led the innocent One away to the heights of Golgotha!"

The horizon grew still darker. At length the somber canopy of clouds broke: flames of lightning spread over the gloomy firmament, and the thunder rolled in majesty through the vault of heaven. Minona, seized with holy awe, buried her face. "The Holy One is dying!" she sighed; "the rending heavens proclaim the hour of his death!"

The bursts of thunder grew still more terrible. The strife of the elements continued without rest along the firmament. At length the dark bosom of clouds opened; great drops fell to the earth; the angry heavens grew calm, and the thunder ceased. Peacefully echoed the evening bells through the dripping rain, like words of heavenly consolation that fall into the tears of sorrow.

« ForrigeFortsæt »