NOT to open the question of compulsory attendance at church, which undergraduates have some very decided opinions upon, we would ask here to-day, when so many of our clerical friends favor us with their presence, that these same friends consider whether or not we have grounds for this criticism upon their weekly sermons. Hard enough it is for clergymen in general to lift themselves out of the sermonizing ruts that their fathers and grandfathers wore deep for them; yet that some do so we all know; and when once we find the large - hearted, great - souled preacher, who seems to have his hand ever on the pulse of humanity, and whose words fire us with ambition for true manliness and greatness, we feel how infinitely more effective might be the words of the great mass of preachers would they but be a little less ready to tread the way their fathers trod. This last remark brings us to what we more especially desire to speak of and that is the pictures of heaven with which many sermons are crammed full. Now, in all Christian charity, granting that the preacher does not crib so freely from Revelation and the Psalms for the purpose of saving himself mental labor, what does the preacher gain by such a picture? For who indeed ever sits down in his study - and few men can be their real selves there - and deliberately writes out a description of heaven, without making that happiest of all places "a land flowing with milk and honey"? That expression meant a great deal of one kind of happiness when it was addressed to an Oriental people thousands of years ago; but to many a person, milk and honey are altogether too distasteful to make any place desirable now.
If these high-flown and often utterly ridiculous descriptions of a future state were simply indifferent as a means for good or evil, or if they combined in themselves harmlessness for the hearers and satisfaction for the abnormal state of the preacher's mind, we could contentedly refrain from even a passing remark on the waste of time and effort.
But it is not so. I have been compelled to listen to such a description of heaven as no educated preacher can or does believe in; such a description as, taken even in its most figurative meaning, could inspire no enthusiasm for its attainment in any but the most animal natures. Perpetual rest, unending song, and Oriental luxury have been the spiritual food the preacher has offered under the appellation of heaven; and this, too often, to those. who despise the effeminacy of such luxury, and whose work, not rest, is their real happiness.
Let us, O clergy of Cambridge and Boston, have the privilege of forming our own conceptions of heaven and bliss. Do not disgust all the educated with these caricatures of a future life. Or, if the pulpit's elevation does convince its occupant that he can see a little farther into the realms of the unknowable, may he seek to picture it in the scholarly way that does not confound the gratification of the sensual appetites with the stimulation of the noblest powers of our higher nature.
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Class of 1890.