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The watchmen are called “dumb dogs that cannot bark.* It is because these animals have ever been used by man as sentinels whose bark warns of approaching danger ; and because they are only useful as they bark, that they are employed as symbols of indolent preachers. The burglar may be approaching the house, the hand of the assassin may be on the latch of the door, and yet the dog, which the householder has appointed as the watch, barks not, and sleeps on without notice. Thus it was with those indolent prophets. Dangers were approaching the people, the judgments of heaven were looming on the horizon of the nation, yet they sounded no note of warning ;—they “were sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.” Although pulpit slothfulness prevailed more in other ages than ours, it is still too general. We have amongst us men who represent themselves as the ministers of religion, who are in reality “dumb,” plethoric, pluralists. They are men whom the prophets describe as "lying down, loving to slumber, dumb dogs." There are others who, when they speak, speak with a drowsy soul, and their words are somnific. They monotonously echo the
* Verse 10, “His watchmen are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark.” From this, as well as from chap. xii, 16, it seems it was customary for the Hebrew watchman to utter cries from time to time; so that silence in a watchman is described as a disqualification and reproach. It is still customary in the Levant for the watchmen in the towns frequently to utter loud cries to make their presence known, and to manifest their vigilance. Their exclamations, like nearly all others used by the Moslems, are of a religious character.
Mr. Lane says, “The cry of the nightly watchman in the quarter in which I lived in Cairo, during my first visit, struck me as remarkable for its sublimity. • I proclaim the absolute glory of the living king, who sleepeth not nor dieth.' The present watchman, in the same quarter, exclaims, O Lord ! 0 Everlasting!' It is known that there are some species of dogs which cannot bark, and some such the prophet probably had in view in this comparison. In the Levant we have seen one species, a short unsightly dog, with something of the lurcher or terrier in him, which never does bark."
things of other men and of former times, like the preacher of whom Cowper speaks :
“ He grinds Divinity of other days
Down into modern use ; transforms old print
Perhaps there are more in these times dumb from expediency, than from slothfulness. It is too evident to all who have any extensive acquaintance with the modern pulpit, that there are preachers who are systematically dumb on certain points, which in private they profess to adopt, but which at present are unpopular, and therefore kept back. They echo only the opinions that are current in their Church.
They speak with apparent earnestness, and untiring industry, the few patent dogmas of their sect, but nothing more. They add nothing to the stock of Christian intelligence. They have either no independent convictions of their own, or, if they have, a crayen policy seals their lips. This dumbness of a miserable expediency is more abhorrent to me than the dumbness of indolence. For such preachers we confess to what the poet calls an “implacable disgust.” Sooner slumber than truckle. A temporizing pulpit, though ever popular in a corrupt age, is always offensive to Heaven, and contemptible to the morally thoughtful on earth.
But the pulpit of this age seems to be falling into an opposite, and, for some reasons, a worse, evil than dumbness ;that of eternal talk without significance. Better a silent dog than one that dins us with his incessant bark ;-barking in all hours, in all places, and at all things. Give me the noble mastiff that barks at his own door with a truthful meaning, which wakes up the family to their dangers, rather than the little curs that are running everywhere to bark in people's
There are preachers who although they have
“Skulls that cannot teach, and will not learn,”
can talk fluently, and sometimes even pleasantly, for hours, and say nothing. Their eloquence is that of wind, nothing more. Though some men boast of the number of sermons they preach in the week, we are disposed to think it is a matter for sore lamentation. Men may preach thirty times a week to the public advantage—as did the earnest Grimshaw, the seraphic Whitfield, the noble-souled Wesley, and others of the same glorious type, in that awakening age;—but not thirty sermons : by which we mean gospel discourses, com
ommending the truths of the gospel to men’s reason, the claims of the gospel to men's conscience, the spirit of the gospel to men's hearts, and the provisions of the gospel to men's deep spiritual wants. Ignorance mistakes constitutional garrulity for pulpit gift, artimal vehemence for divine inspiration, and a high-sounding wordiness for eloquence. Speech is oftener the substitute than the vehicle of thought. The little brook which is too weak to carry a log of wood, rolls more swiftly, and dins more with its rattle, than the deep river that bears the wealth of empires on its bosom. It is so with the tongue. The dolt shall tattle the live-long day, whilst the sage shall sit mute with mighty thought. The rule, perhaps is—the less thinking the more speaking. An anecdote just occurs to me in this connexion, which is related of Robert Hall.
He was once asked how many sermons a man could preach in the week. The reply of that renowned pulpit orator, was, if I remember rightly, to the following effect :-“It depends upon the man ;—if he be a very superior man in thought, he may preach one, if he be a mere commonplace thinker, he may manage two, if he be an idiot he may preach half-a-dozen or more.” This hits the philosophy of that pulpit gab which has become intolerable amongst us. Give me, after all, even the “dumb dog," rather than the incessant barker.
III. WE ARE HERE TAUGHT THAT THE OLD HEBREW PULPIT AT THIS TIME WAS MARKED BY SELFISH GREED.
“ Yea they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, they all look to their own way, every one for his gain.” Such strong language expresses their ravenous selfishness. It would seem that these corrupt prophets cared for no one but themselves. Though the tide of national depravity rose high in their midst, threatening to bear away with its swelling surges the divine institutions which their fathers had bequeathed to them, and the landmarks of their glorious old faith ; though foreign invasion menaced the country, and the judgments of heaven were brooding darkly over the land ; they thought only of their own indulgence. They were “greedy dogs," controlled only by their own appetites, which grew more ravenous the more gratified. · They could never have enough. The more they had the more the fire flamed. How stands the modern pulpit in this respect ? What say you of those wealthy pluralists who make pulpits a marketable commodity, buy and sell them for gain? What
say you of those who use the pulpit as a market, with which stand associated all the clap-trap, puffs and trickery of trade, where the doctrines dispensed are for sale rather than salvation ? Where the promotion of pew rents is obviously a greater thought than the advancement of pure religion? These are verily “greedy dogs.” “The priests teach for hire, and the prophets divine for money,”
Ambitious of preferment for its gold.
But this selfish greed shows itself in other ways besides the striving after “filthy lucre." There is the " greed' for popularity. The " greedy dogs” are numerous in this direction. These popularity seekers are pretty well known amongst
Their heads show every platform, their names meet you in boldest type at every corner of the street.
From splendid halls and dirty theatres, down to the smallest anniversary of some
cause,” they will welcome invitations for display. Blessed for them are the May meetings with the reports of their speeches, and the soul-transporting cheers. Ignorance calls this zeal, and mercenary committees often
hold them up with unblushing impudence, as examples to all the preachers of the age. We verily believe—and we speak from extensive observation—that the truly great preachers of this age; the men of genius and profound thought; the men who think to teach, and teach to save; who honor the pulpit by doing its soul-instructive and ennobling work; shrink with a holy disgust alike from the noxious breath of vulgar popularity, and the “greed” that seeks it. As a proof of this, read the following words of the justly reverend Dr. Croly, who must be admitted a competent authority upon such a question as this. He
“ Whatever may be the deficiency of the city pulpit, I should not desire to see it adopting the style which is now supposed essential to popular attraction ;-the mixture of ribald jests and grim gossip, of flippant anecdote and facetious profanation, or even those deeper castings of the net into the very sewers of popularity ; Theology treading the boards,' reverend men fighting before the footlights, sermons backed by scenery, and the pulpit making an abortive inroad into the regions of melodrama.”
IV. WE ARE HERE TAUGHT THAT THE OLD HEBREW PULPIT AT THIS TIME WAS MARKED BY SUPERFICIALITY. “They have healed the daughter of my people slightly.” Dr. Blaney, in his translation, substitutes the word superficially for “slightly." Although these words
taken from another book they refer to the same subject, and to the same class of men. The words, however, from Isaiah, describe their character, these words describe their work. They did something, but it was partial and ineffective. They healed to some extent, but it was very superficial. They did not seek to eradicate the disease, but merely administered temporary palliatives, which whilst they deadened the pain, fostered the virus of the malady. The idea undoubtedly is, that instead of endeavoring to work into the moral heart of the people profound convictions as to the enormity of their sins, and fulminate in their ears the righteous denun