Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE

NEW ENGLANDER. .

No. XXI.

JANUARY, 1848.

CHURCH BUILDING.

The Puritans were 'a peculiar tant matters of doctrine, polity and people,' not only in the sense in discipline, but in regard to ecclesiaswhich the apostles affirmed as much tical architecture also; on which subof Christians generally, because they ject we believe their real views have were among God's own redeemed been misrepresented and misunderservants, but according to the sense stood, while at the same time we can often imputed to the phrase, as be. not adopt them as the model or ex. ing obviously singular or different ample of our own. They entertained from the multitude. It could not scruples about names as well as have been reasonably expected of things. Their houses of worship men in their situation, ihat they they would not call churches, nor would be equally judicious in all the was this name popularized among particulars about which they were their descendants in New England precise and rigid, nor that all their even within our memory, if indeed it scruples would alike commend them. can be said to be so at this day. But selves to the imitation of their pos- as a part of the British people, yet terily. In some things we can easily dissenters from the two national essee that their very position made tablishments, they were obliged to them antagonistic, and prone to ex. relinquish a name legally appropritremes. It is a fruit of the essential ated to the edifices used by those Puritan spirit inherited from the ecclesiastical bodies, just as now in fathers of New England, that their England all houses of worship other descendants, instead of clinging with than Episcopal, and in Scotland blind te nacily to all the iraditions those which are Episcopal, are not received from an ancestry of which called churches, but by way of disthey rightly boast, make use of the tinction chapels. Apart from this freedom they obiain from the same necessity however, they objected to source, adapt themselves to their such an application of the word own times, and modify their opin- church, and not without grave rea. ions and usages in some measure It is not the scriptural name according to their opportunities of of a place of worship, but rather of advancement.

a worshiping assembly, 'a congreThus our fathers are known to have gation of faithful men,' or of all such differed from the established church congregations collectively considerof England not only in certain impor- ed. And so generally is it used to VOL. VI.

1

sons.

denote the spiritual house,' that would be brief, we are content to when applied to a material edifice call every place of Christian wor. it must be expounded by the con- ship, a church, with or without the nection it stands in, and sometimes consent of the fathers of New Eng. creates ambiguity. But in rejecting land, or of their iraducers. this term the non-conformists were But we have more to do now with not happy in providing a substitute. things than names. Houses of wor. They fell upon a compound awk- ship in New England, as in other ward at besi, and doomed to be con- parts of this country, are known to tracted and corrupted in frequent have been from the first plain build. use into “meelin' 'us.” On grave ings, more remarkable for the good occasions which allow of longer service rendered in them to God phrases, the difficulty has been ob- and man, ihan for sumptuous deco. viated by the use of those scriptural rations or architectural beauty. As expressions which have always been a part of the historical view that employed more or less among all ought to be taken of the topic proChristians, the house of God,' the posed in this article, we would briefly Lord's house,' and the sanc/uary. advert to the opinion and practice of This last term, or perhaps the word the people of New England in early temple, more familiar to us in Jewish times, or before the present century. than in heathen usage, should have As we said before, they have been been employed raiher than any mod. misrepresented, and misunderstood ern compound, as being at once ap- on this subject. By some they are propriate, specific, brief and ele. supposed to have set themselves in gant; and either of these terms prejudice and opposition against the might have retained a paramount idea of any other church-architecplace in those communities where it ture than such as was absolutely had been once established. We necessary to accommodate an audi. admit, however, that it was not wise ence within four walls; but this was to attempt to displace a name at not true of the Puritans, though it once sacred and popular among the may have been of the Quakers. greater part of all who speak our They did not employ the most costly mother tongue, for no better rea- nor ihe most substantial materials, sons than iis occasional ambiguity nor follow the most approved modand the want of scriptural precedent. els of proportion, nor in any way To call a house of worship a church, aim chiefly at the most imposing ef. if not scriptural nor entirely une. fect; but ibis was a mauler of course quivocal, is yet emphatically Eng. in a new country, among people lish. There are still Congregation. who were laying ihe foundations of alists who from habit or deference new commonwealths, and whose to the fathers prefer the awkward most urgent care was the defense, coinpound, and there are religionists subsistence and nurture of their chil. of other orders who like to perpelu- dren. No people, in such a condi. ate it by way of reproach against all tion, build sione cathedrals to be Protestant churches except their wondered at by their posterity. The own.* For ourselves, when houses of worship in New England

from the earliest period might be * Thereby hangs a tale. In a certain favorably compared with structures place a Congregational church stood be. of the same kind, and of even later iween another of the same order and an Episcopal edifice. A minister in the lat. Center meeting-house.' •What have you ter received a notice to be read from the been about,' said the other, alter the serdesk, of some public meeting during the vice, calling our church a meeting.house week in the Center church,' In his for it must be one if the other is the cenyoung zeal he concluded, against the ad. ter meeting house.' The dilemma was vice of another minister, to read it, the candidly acknowledged.

we

date, in the southern colonies, and they were predisposed to differ from in the Canadas too, where the pre- them also in opinion and usages on vailing religion, so far as religion matters of interior moment, and prevailed at all, was of a type op. among other things in the structure posed to Puritanism. When their and arrangement of houses of worresources are considered, our fathers ship. There was some need too of are found to have been liberal in innovation and reform in this matter. expenditures of this sort. They The old English churches were built not only for themselves, but as not as convenient as they ought to far as the materials they were able have been for the purposes of worto employ would suffice, for their ship and instruction. The cathedescendants. Many of the old par. drals especially were fitied, as in ish churches, such as stood within fact they had been designed, for ihe

memory of the present genera- popish rather than Protestant usetion, and even yet survive, were for seeing the ceremonies of the larger than most of their successors, Romish church, rather than intelliand constructed of huge beams and gently worshiping God and hearing rafters, that modern workmen would his word even according to the usacall a waste of timber. The wood ges of the English church since the was sometimes brought from a great reformation. Their magnitude and distance, and selecied with care and arrangement show them to have cost. Hence those structures ofien been products of the old superstilasted longer than many modern tion, since they would never have brick churches, which have to be been demanded for the purposes of taken down before they would fall of a purer faith. The world may well themselves on account of some crack congratulate itself on the possession in the wall, or because they are out of such architectural wonders ; for of fashion.' And it should be ob ourselves if we were permitted ofserved as honorable to those times, ten to see them we could heartily that the house of God was more honor the memory of their ancient cosily than any privale dwelling. builders for the pleasure afforded us The same thing can not be as gen. by those fruits of their mistaken erally affirmed now. The chief zeal, and we would have more en. men studied the Old Testament too lightened generations religiously pre. much to leave any of them content serve the edifices which we could to say, 'I dwell in an house of ce. not justify them for now erecting. dar, but the ark of God dwelleth At the same time we can not resist within curtains.'* Yet it is un- the conviction ibat in these instances doubtedly true that the laws of taste cosily magnificence was in excess ; in this department were then too that ihe arts of decoration iranscend. litle considered or understood. The ed the limits prescribed by the sim. same care and expense would have plicity of the Christian institutions, been bestowed more wisely, if more and ihat the sublime effect thus regard had been had 10 approved sought was disproportioned to other models either in classic or Gothic more spiritual and benevolent aims. architecture. We are willing to There was, therefore, as we have admit also, that on this subject iheir said, some need of reform in this judgment lay under a certain unnat- matter of church building where a ural bias. Having taken an atti. pure and vital Christianity was to be tude in opposition to the prevailing reinstated in the minds of the compariy in the church of England in mon people. We acknowledge, regard to inore important points, however, ihat many of the Puritans

were misled by their position beyond * 2 Sam. 7: 2. 1 Chron. 17: 1. this legitimate design, into lower and

more

narrower notions. Their antipathy ought to be observed by the good to an ecclesiastical establishment people now engaged in erecting whose usages they properly regard- houses of worship, that is through ed as still impregnated with too prejudice or lack of judgment, the much of the old leaven, and whose old fashioned ineeting houses, as tyranny they had selt with righteous they are called, differed unnecessaindignation, made them jealous even rily from the English parish churchof things accidentally associated with es, yet in one important respect they that establishment. Cooper in one conformed to those models, - in of his novels says, that from their having the lower rise from the anxiety to differ from the commun- ground, instead of resting on the ion they had left, they made their roof, or parily on the roof and partchurch-windows as nearly as pos. ly on a colonnade, as in many new sible like those of private houses. churches at this day. We have Whether this be so or not, some such seen old churches spoiled in the motive seems to have entered into best feature they ever had, because their architectural arrangements, the people attempted to improve making them more partial than they them, as they imagined, by bringing would otherwise have been to a forward the main building on each style excessively plain, or side even (or flush,' as carpenters properly bald and homely. Proba. have it) with the front of the tower, bly some influence of this kind led thus making the steeple seem 10 rest them to prefer two and even three on the roof even where it has a rows of small windows to one row better support and ought to show it. of long windows. * Yet on the But we shall advert to this point other hand, they did not run into the again. We have said enough to theory of the Quakers or the Meth. show that our fathers, down to the odists on this subject. Some of the present century, when we consider old churches that stood within the iheir circumstances, were not so far memory of the present generation, behind their descendants of the and some of which are still standing present day in the matter of church here and there, besides being built building, as is often supposed. Still as substantially as the materials we acknowledge that here, as in would allow, were not destitute of some other things, their judgment ornament. The pulpits particularly was not as comprehensive and lib. were sometimes adorned with carved eral as it should bave been. In re. work in the form of vines or flowers, volting from one extreme they tend. or enriched capitals of pilasters, and ed to another. They did not give generally with more panels and the idea of beauty its legitimate place npouldings than any part of the best in the arts, nor yet always in the dwelling-house at that time could conduct of life. In ecclesiastical show, and being built up solid from architecture it was 100 far subordi. the floor and to an unnecessary nated to the bare cold notion of height, beneath a sounding board utility or convenience. Their error, which had more or less work on it more excusable in them however, too, roade more considerable struc. was that of a majority of the people tures than the modern platform sur- in our own day; and the correction mounted by a table or fenced in by of it will mark the more advanced a balustrade and curtain. And it stages and show one of the ripest

fruits of the world's civilization.

We hold it to be true, and we would * Yet something like a precedent might have the truth sacredly regarded, be found for so many tiers of lights in old Norman churches as described by scien. that as in nature, so in human life, tific writers.

and in the arts, utility and beauty

instead of being lawfully divorced per part of the center projecting, if are of right joined together, and we remember rightly, in three sides that the highest perfection of each of a hexagon, with the deacons' lies in the harmony of both. seat' below, a single steep heavy

While of late years we see en. staircase at the side, and a liitle wincouraging tokens among all the lead- dow behind. The chief door was ing denominations of Christians, of opposite the pulpit, making he side a desire to diversify and improve of the house the front, (as an Irish ecclesiastical architecture, we are critic might describe it,) and anothobliged to add that in most places er door at either end, one passing there is more of diversity than of through the tower, where we sup: improvement, and that so far as the pose the boys stopped every Sunday proper effect of the exterior is con. to understand the mystery of bello sidered, the new church falls short ringing. The seating' was in square of the old. We have often wished pews, left unpainted as they should that some of the long established be, with large and small aisles congregations in New England, had through which the people who had been from the first in a condition to been accustomed to such passes use the most enduring materials for could find the shortest way from eibuilding, that we might sometimes ther door. There may have been worship God in our holy,' if not a sounding board too over the pulour beautiful house, where our fa- pit, for this was once thought althers praised' him. Besides the ef most indispensable, and besides hav. fect of historical associations, the ing the authority of old precedent, old house,' with certain slight chan. was of more service than is now ges for the sake of convenience, imagined.* It might be employed would often have the advantage over with advantage now wherever the the new, in looking more like a place size or shape of a house, or the feeof worship, and less like a court bleness of a preacher's voice, makes house or academy or factory. Here hearing difficult

. At one time anand there one may still be found, other sort of sounding board, not so too strong to be easily pulled apart, called, was in use in some places if and too hallowed for the fathers' sakes' to be readily forsaken. The * “ The church of Altercliffe, near Sheflast we looked into with curious in field, (England,) had long been remarkaterest was in Lexington, Massachu. ble for the difficulty and indistinctness setts, and that (if we are rightly in

with which the voice from the pulpit was

heard: these defects were completely formed) has since been burnt, after remedied by the erection of a concave witnessing the first bloodshed of the sounding board, having the form resulting Revolution, and surviving theologifrom half a revolution of one branch of a cal changes scarcely less memora

parabola on its axis. It is made of pine

wood; its axis is inclined forward to the ble. Though we saw it in the lat. plane of the floor at an angle of about ten ter part of the week, on opening the or fifteen degrees; it is elevated so that door we found the house redolent of the speaker's mouth may be in the focus ; feonel-seed, which as many of our

and a small curvilinear portion is remov

ed on each side from beneath, so that the readers may remember, had a fra- view of the preacher from the side gallegrance almost as ecclesiastical in ries may not be intercepted. The effect the country towns in New Eng. of this sounding board has been to inland as frankincense in the Romish five times what it was before, so that the

crease the volume of the sound to nearly churches, though employed to stim- voice is now distinctly audible in the reulate the senses rather than to be- motest parts of the church, and more escloud the fancy. The pulpit was pecially in those places, however distant midway on one side of the build. they may be, which are situated in the

prolongation of the axis of the paraboing, a tall paneled structure, the up- Toid." --Stuart's Dict. of Archit.

« PreviousContinue »