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HENRY WARD BEECHER, preacher, orator, lecturer, writer, editor, and reformer, was born at Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1813. He was by nature and training a great pulpit orator. Mr. Beecher kept himself in perfect physical condition for his work. He has described a course of vocal exercises which he pursued in the open air for a period of three years.
“The drill I underwent,” he says, “produced, not a rhetorical manner, but a flexible instrument, that accommodated itself readily to every kind of thought and every shape of feeling."
He had deep sympathy for all men, and this with his intense dramatic
often carried him into the wildest and most exalted flights of oratory. Phillips Brooks styled him the greatest preacher in America, and he is generally regarded as the most highly gifted of modern preachers. He was fearless, patriotic, clear-headed, witty, and self-sacrificing. Dr. Wilkinson calls him “the greatest pulpit orator the world ever saw.” He died in 1887.
H. W. BEECHER
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.—I Cor. xv., 19.
HIS is not the declaration of a universal
principle: it is biographical and per
sonal. And yet, there is in it a principle of prime importance. It is true that Paul and his compeers had sacrificed everything that was dear to man for the sake of Christ. Paul had given up the place that he held among his countrymen, and the things which surely awaited him. He had consented to be an exile. Loving Palestine and the memory of his fathers, as only a Jew could love, he found himself an outcast, and despised everywhere by his own people. And the catalog that he gives of the sufferings which he felt keenly; which perhaps would not have been felt by a man less susceptible than he, but which were no less keen in his case-that catalog shows how much he had given up for Christ. And if it should turn
*From “Plymouth Pulpit Sermons.” By permis sion of the Congregational Sunday-School and Publishing Society.
out that after all he had followed a mere fable, a myth; that Christ was but a man; that, dying, He had come to an end; that He stayed dead, and that there was no resurrection, no future, but only that past through which he waded, and that present in which he was suffering, then, surely, it would be true that of all men he was most miserable.
This is the biographical view; but it may be said of all men, in this respect, that no persons can so ill afford to lose faith of immortality as those who have had all their affections burnished, deepened and rendered sensitive by the power of Christianity. When Christianity has had the education of generation after generation, and has shaped the style of its manhood, and ordained the institutions by which its affections have been enlarged and purified; when, in short, generations of men have been legitimately the children of Christianity, to take away from them the faith of immortality would be a cruelty which could have no parallel in the amount of suffering which it would entail.
It is not necessarily true that men without a hope of Christianity would have no incitement to virtue-certainly not in the ordinary way in which it is put to us. Abstractly, it is said that virtue is its own reward—and it is. If there was enough of it to amount to anything, it would be a great, an exceeding great, reward; but where it is a spark; a