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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/443

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IS THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION DECLINING?

influence in this regard. Oratory in legislative bodies has to a great extent lost its influence. Its place has been taken by simple, compact, time-saving statements, often printed but not delivered. Committees do the work which used to be done after discussion before the public. So the people will not listen now to the pulpit orator of former generations. They demand short, crisp sermons that bristle with points, and are practical and helpful. In other words, the oratorical and highly intellectual character of the pulpit which used to attract worshipers no longer attracts them. They feel that they can get more benefit in this regard by reading in the comfort of the home. Multitudes of people can no longer be induced to attend church to be instructed by the minister or to get his judgment on topics of the time, or to be stirred by his eloquence; they can get all these things cheaper and easier by reading at home. When, now, this is re-enforced by the fact that multitudes dislike the doctrines of the Church, and resent them when they are preached, we can easily understand that church attendance should decline very greatly from this reason.

But this is no evidence that the Christian religion has declined. If men absent themselves from public worship because it is no longer necessary for them, as good citizens and as respectable members of society, to attend, or because they may get their instruction and stimulation elsewhere easier and with less expenditure of time and money, that is simply an evidence that attendance upon church in the past has been due in great measure to other than religious reasons, and that, these no longer holding, attendance has disappeared with them. The attendance upon public worship, though reduced so far as number is concerned, is now more simply and purely for religious reasons, and therefore minister and people may with greater freedom make the services more distinctly religious. This is indeed the real situation that has emerged. The sermon has declined relatively in importance, and rightly so. It had an exaggerated importance in the Protestant Church, especially in the non-liturgical churches. There is a world-wide tendency now, which is increasing in power, to improve and enlarge the worship of the Church. Liturgies and ceremonies of worship are more discussed now in the Protestant world than are sermons and lectures, because it is becoming every day more evident that the Church is organized for common prayer and for public worship, and not merely to furnish a pulpit for a minister. The pulpit is more and more being merged in the worship, and is losing its domination over the worship. With this tendency goes increased attention to the Holy Sacraments, especially the Holy Communion, more frequent celebrations and more frequent participation, increased