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insolence of Scribes and Pharisees could not stop it. And though he sometimes used means direct and indirect to keep down the seeming excesses of public admiration, he was still very popular. On some occasions his discourses were so far from being flattering that they were tremendously severe. So severe indeed that while many night have apprehended a speedy desertion of his ministry, because of the offence it gave to some of his hearers, he nevertheless engrossed the public attention. As to “ the common people,” they “heard him gladly.” His reputation was firmly established as a Teacher sent from God. And his fame being the result of pure excellence and usefulness to the bodies and souls of men, widely promoted that which he continually sought-the glory of his Father.
Happy the christian preacher whose fame, like that of the Redeeiner's, is founded on qualities abstractedly excellent and advantageous to our holy religion!
But as ministerial fame is not, in every man's case, so honorably purchased as we could desire ; and as preachers may become popular without increasing the fame of practical christianity, or, in other words, increasing the number of sincere and exemplary christians. It may be serviceable to us, in the first place, to enquire into the merits of a questionable popularity in the christian ministry: examining the foundation on which it rests, and how far it may or may not contribute to the increase of true religion. I will, in the second place, consider the great importance of popularity in this ministry, when it is well deserved and judiciously applied; and, thirdly, make some admonitory reflections.
After the discussion of the subject itself, I shall respectfully solicit the reader's attention to some supplementary particulars, which, though small in themselves, have a very intimate connexion with the effectiveness of the popular minister's public services, and the tranquillity of his mind as a christian philosopher. The first department of the supplement will be addressed to the people or congregations at large. The second will chiefly, though not exclusively, concern the preacher.
I. We propose to enquire into the merits of a questionable popularity in the christian ministry.
By questionable I mean the popularity concerning which judicious persons are disposed to ask,“ does this serve the cause of Christ or not ? Our minds are filled with involuntary scepticism on the subject. And again, “with what sort of people is this man popular, and in what places ?” “To what extent is he popular, and for what length of time?” For the popularity of some men is confined to the approbation of a certain class, in certain districts of country; and even amongst these, his congregations may greatly differ in size, and sadly dwindle after a protracted stay. Now when uneasy questions arise in our hearts after hearing a preacher who is much followed, and after noticing the genius, temper, and modes of thinking of his chief admirers—we call his popularity questionable.
Having thus shewn in what sense I wish the word questionable to be understood, I shall now
proceed to ascertain the true meaning of the word popular and all its adjuncts.
Popularity in its general sense means the favour of the people. The etymology of the word will explain to us its exact signification, and lead us to perceive that, in itself, it is by no means a just criterion or proof of excellence.
Our best English writers of the last century, and indeed earlier than then, did not attach precisely the same notion to the word that multitudes do in our day. We can scarcely hear the adjective popular as a qualifying epithet applied to a preacher, but our judgments begin immediately to conclude that he is a very clever man, or a man of great abilities, and a pulpit orator. Or we think at least that some rare excellence attaches to him as the foundation of his popularity. But in the days when our English literature was enriched by the productions of honestly original writers, profound thinkers, competent critics, and men who took care to discriminate, the meaning of the word was definite, or fixed and settled. So it is now in the mind of the scholar.
The word popular, coming to us from the latin popularis, through the french populaire, was defined by Milton--"vulgar," "plebeian;" and by Hooker—"suitable to the common peo
ple,"— familiar, not critical. This means, if I judge aright not very nice and particular: Clarenden says it means “ beloved by the people,”—pleasing to the people; and Addison says—“studious of the favour of the people.”
The substantive popularity, from the latin popularitas, signified, according to Dryden“the state of being favoured by the people ;” and by Bacon, the word was thus defined, “ representation suited to vulgar conception," “what affects the vulgar.” Then again the adverb popularly, according to Dryden, meant “in a plebeian manner, so as to please the crowd ;” and Bacon says—" according to vulgar conception.”
Here then we have the proper and full meaning of the word. And we make a wrong use of it when, on hearing it applied to the name of a man who is not truly great, we attach to it the idea of remarkable cleverness-of distinguished talent, or any other kindred notion. A man may, it is true, be so happy as to render himself alike pleasing to the learned and the illiterate, and even the grossly ignorant.
We have some excellent men of this sort, but they are not very numerous. Generally speaking, the man of the unlettered multitude, is not exactly the man for the well-educated and ac