[Side note: Parting glance at the preacher’s mission]
In parting we take a glance at the preacher’s exalted mission, and we may well ask: What in the whole range of human occupations does this world hold worthy of being compared to it?
The battle-field, it is true, has its glories, but it has its horrors also. Who can paint the pride with which Napoleon saw the triumph of his skill crush two Emperors at Austerlitz or the rapture with which he beheld the trophies of great kingdoms at his feet? The fatigues of winter marches were forgotten when in the fiery flashes of his veterans’ eyes he read his own renown, while their applauding shouts fell like music on his ears. But blood soils the proudest trophies of war, and across the perspective of victory the spectres of murdered men will stalk.
Human eloquence, too, has its conquests, the purest, the most beautiful in the natural order. How the pride flush heightens on the orator’s cheek as he watches the crusts of prejudice melt and hostile hearts surrender; when he marks the bated breath and the hushed silence attesting his victory more eloquently than the stormiest applause! He sees the varied moods of his own soul mirrored in the faces around him, as he summons forth what spirit he lists: tears or laughter, murmurs or applause answer to his call.
What pen can picture the ecstasies that thrilled the soul of Grattan as he gave utterance to the spirit of expiring freedom in those orations that rank among the world’s masterpieces? The snows of age melted and the decrepitude of years was flung aside, and his eyes gleamed with strange fires as he beheld sodden corruption struck dumb and hang its guilty head; when he saw the wavering drink fresh courage with each new outburst, and men of commonest clay transformed into heroes by the blaze of his genius. Glorious triumphs indeed; but, alas! human, and as such doomed to die.
But in the sublimity of his purpose and the imperishable nature of his conquests the preacher stands alone. Compared with his the greatest trophies of the battle-field or the forum are feeble trifles.
The preacher, in prayer and study, goes down over the green swards of Calvary, and there gathers the ruby drops of Redemption. He ascends the pulpit and pours them as a purple tide over souls that are parched and perishing. As when the Pentecostal fire rested on the Apostles’ heads, a new light filled their minds and a new flame sprung up within their hearts; so when the same spirit breathes through the preacher’s lips, the clouds of ignorance dissolve and the light of truth divine glorifies the minds and inflames the souls of his hearers. The ears of faith can hear the applause of angels and the eyes of faith can read Heaven’s approval in the flashing glances of the Blest, as with each stroke the preacher widens the empire of the Precious Blood and piles palpitating trophies before the Sacred Heart. Ah! here is a field worthy of the highest ambition that ever burned within a human breast.