Monday, January 23, 2012

Bishop Phillips Brooks: Greatest Preacher of the 19th Century

The Right Honorable, The 1st Viscount, James Bryce (1838-1922), who became the British Ambassador to the United States in 1907, a jurist, historian, and politician, knew the Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts, Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) and had heard him preach. In comparing Brooks to some of the great preachers of the time: Wilberforce, Spurgeon, Henry Ward Beecher, etc., Bryce wrote: "All these famous men were, in a sense, more
brilliant, that is to say, more rhetorically effective, than Dr. Brooks, yet none of them seemed to speak so directly to the soul. With all of them it was impossible to forget the speaker in the words spoken, because the speaker did not seem to have quite forgotten himself, but to have studied the effect he sought to produce. With him it was otherwise. What amount of preparation he may have given to his discourses I do not know. But there was no sign of art about them, no touch of self-consciousness. He spoke to his audience as a man might speak to his friend, pouring forth with swift, yet quiet and seldom impassioned, earnestness the thoughts and feelings of a singularly pure and lofty spirit...Dr. Brooks was the best because the most edifying of others among the famous preachers of the generation that is now vanishing approached him...

Brooks' words on the Church and the sacraments are especially appropriate during this Week of Prayer for Christian and Interfaith Unity: "The Church is no exception and afterthought in the world, but is the survival and preservation of the world's first idea -- the anticipation and prophecy of the world's final perfectness. The Church of Christ is the ideal humanity. Say not that it leaves out the superhuman. I know no ideal humanity that is not filled and pervaded with the superhuman. God in man is not unnatural, but the absolutely natural. That is what the Incarnation makes us know..."

Regarding the sacraments Brooks says: "The unity of [Christ's] believers to the end of time is still to have the secret of its existence in the personal relation between each of them and him. To help this invisible relation to realize itself and not to be all lost in the unseen, the gracious kindness of the Master provides two symbols [Baptism and the Eucharist] which thenceforth become the pledges at once of the personal believer's belonging to the Lord and of the belonging of believers to each other. The sacraments are set like gems to hold the Church into its precious unity...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bishop Phillips Brooks, was a man of remarkable faith. One who walk the path of simplicity, wisdom and integrity an example for us to day
It is such a pity that we do not have the likes of him with us today.

Bro Paul