By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
THE SENTIMENTAL PREACHER -- X. Y. Z.
"Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more." (2 Cor. 5:16.)
Every grace of the Spirit can be and has been counterfeited. Hence there is much that passes for gentleness that is nothing more or less than religious softness. It is what Wesley denominates being "smooth to am excess so as scarcely to avoid a degree of fawning, or of seeming to mean what they do not. To avoid roughness they lean to the other extreme." Many public speakers and Christian workers have so cultivated affectation that they can shed tears at will, and give to the voice such a pathetic tremor that those who lack discernment are likewise affected, and hence pronounce them very spiritual.
To this class of ministers we beg leave to speak a few words in an humble, unassuming manner.
1. The above named minister has about him a streak of sentimentality. This is evidenced by his attitude to God in worship. His expressions of praise sound affected. One feels ashamed to look him in the eye while he is speaking, for he is so self-conscious that we wonder if he is perfectly sincere. instead of giving us a broad, heartfelt "Hallelujah," he primps his mouth and says, "Hullelujah," or "Praise the Dear Lawd."
2. This soft brother always manages to keep set" in sight. If he does not happen to be overly precise, he is loud and irreverent. He does not "stand in awe" or "rejoice with trembling." Every one sees him instead of Jesus. He frequently gets ahead of the Spirit in praise or exhortation, and thus keeps himself depleted of reserve force. His ministrations would have a better effect were he to wait until surcharged by divine power before speaking. His life is not "hid with Christ." He is very sociable and talkative, loves to be in company, dwells on the surface, likes good dinners, is religiously boisterous and leads if not monopolizes the table conversation.
He usually makes himself very conspicuous in gospel services: speaks every time there is half a chance, and prays whether led by the Spirit or not. He likes to find a prominent seat where he can be conspicuous, even if it is not quite so comfortable as a more obscure one. Usually his wife sits back in the congregation with the babies. He could rest more comfortably in the vacant seat beside her, and might be able to relieve her of one of the children, but he would rather yell "amen" from a more prominent corner. His emotions are easily stirred. He likes sentimental music, seldom gets blest over those deep, old-fashioned hymns which contain so much solid truth and inspiration.
3. This same brother lives so in his emotions that he quickly gives up when sick, and often has poor spells when at some public gathering. At such times he requires considerable nursing and attention. He craves sympathy and has a way of mentioning his ailments to every one until the news gets out that he is very bad off. Everybody is very much concerned and people seem greatly solicitous for him.
If an opportunity is given him to preach, he is delighted and would be greatly disappointed inwardly were he not asked, though outwardly he affects that it is a great sacrifice for him to do so. He slowly enters the stand and in a week voice announces the fact that he is not able to be there; that most people would be in bed "right now" if they were half as sick as he, but he asks the people of God to hold him up with their prayers. After the meeting, friends crowd around, each asking how he feels and prescribing a "sure cure."
After dinner this sentimentalist situates himself upon a cot in the shade where he will be able to receive and digest all the sympathy that comes his way. Thus he invites the devil to tempt him by giving all the sympathetic women a chance to honey around and give words of condolence. If a lady doctor or a trained nurse happens to be on the ground she is called. This gives him a chance to have his pulse felt or his head rubbed. Soft women flatter his preaching and tell him how much good his ministrations have done them.
We once entertained a minister of this stamp. He came in one night after service saying he had a "high fever." As the writer had charge of the home and there were no men present, it fell to her lot to ask if there was anything she could do for him. But be declined all remedies, fell back in a chair and asked in a plaintive voice if the writer did not think his pulse was too quick! Leaving him to decide that matter for himself, she started out of the room saying emphatically that she did not think he had very much fever.
4. In altar work this brother loves to hold the hand of a lady penitent while he speaks low and coaxingly to her in tones which suggest those of a lover wooing a bride, rather than a man dealing with eternal realities. How many valuable men and women have fallen, those whom we trusted as our own hearts! They did not fall suddenly but for years paved the way by little careless acts and in this way they have dug their own graves. An angel could fall if he invited temptation as do some. Though the motive and the heart may n the main be right, yet these little inlets to temptation prevent God from pledging Himself to keep one, for He expects man to keep himself, up to a certain point.
The need of the hour then is men, manly men, men of purity and of strength of character, who can stand bullets, jails, flattery, softness and the pressure of sentimentality. Lord, give us a multitude of such men!