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whose names are now unrivalled for pulpit oratory, and whose sermons afford to this day so excellent a model of the art that French Protestants themselves and American Presbyterians are feign to hold them up for imitation.

The external circumstances of a sermon remain very much the same as when these men preached. They overcame all the quaintness that had preceded their time, and at once assumed the style of a highly educated clergy preaching, not missionary sermons to heathen, but practical and instructive sermons suitable to the every day life of Christians, warning against the real temptations which belong to a civilized condition of society, and exposing weaknesses which are felt at once to be those stumbling-blocks in the way of religion, which are actual and


There is no coarseness and rudeness to startle perhaps once, but disgust if repeated; but there is penetration and a skilful laying bare of the secret intentions of the heart, which no ordinary cloak of deception can withstand. With what perfect good taste, yet severity, does Bourdaloue, for instance, in his sermon on offence' for the second Sunday in Advent, address the ladies of the Court, on the dangers they put in the way of the gay and thoughtless, by courting their admiration, perhaps with no thought of harm, but only to please their vanity; he pictures the manners of gay society, the habits and customs which may pass as among the ordinary routine of high life, but which, nevertheless, he shows to be too often the cover under which a vain love of admiration may stir up ill passions in others that will be an offence to them. This kind of subject in older writers would be dealt with too quaintly (to use the mildest expression) to form a model in our own time; but in the French preachers we have the searching exposure united with such language, which, though severe and dignified, is not offensive or ridiculous to modern ears.

Before, however, making any practical suggestions for the improvement of the art of preaching in our own Church, let us review the actual position in which this art now stands; and if we find it at a low ebb we may perhaps point out some reasons and causes which may suggest a remedy.

We are no great wanderers in search of preaching; and many of the best sermons are unknown to the world, going no further than the congregations to which they are regularly addressed; but still, judging from those which are published, and from such remarks on the subject as a criticising laity will sometimes indulge in, we cannot but think that the sermons of our day are but indifferent. This is not from want of power to write, or from want of concern in the matter, but partly from external circumstances,

which almost necessitate dryness of style, and partly from the want of any real and distinct notion of what a sermon should be, that practical notion we mean which is the result of methodical study. The general complaint is that sermons are dull, that there is no life, no eloquence in them, nothing to dwell on the memory, and that they are deficient in plain teaching. Preachers are accused of going over the heads of the poor, and aiming too exclusively at educated understandings; while at the same time those more educated hearers, far from appreciating the sacrifice of others in their behalf, go home saying that Mr. So-and-So is a good sort of man, but his sermons are very dry. Occasionally, however, we do meet with instances which cannot be set down among the common-place. Some of these are really good and impressive, and thus claim a meritorious distinction; but many more are conspicuous, not for anything better than simple dryness, but for ill-judged vulgar eccentricity, for self-conceit, nay, for false doctrine and heresy. A bold preacher generally means an arrogant, self-opinionated, illread man, whose boldness consists in defying the rules and feelings of his Church, or even the essential doctrines of religion. How seldom do we meet with a bold impressive sermon, that also bears the mark of the educated scholar, the well-read theologian, and the man of acute feelings and sensitive taste! Yet there are clergy of our Church, who are welleducated and well-read, and men of good taste in the affairs of life. There is material among us for a very good performance of any duties required from them as a class of educated men. We are therefore disposed to think that there is specific failing in their pulpit eloquence; and that they could do better if circumstances had brought out their real powers for this purpose. Why is it that sermons are so connected with sleep, and that drowsiness is the inevitable consequence of a few minutes' session under a pulpit? With eagerness do people follow after an orator where he is to be found;-with pleasure will they sacrifice their time and convenience to hear a good speech in a court of justice from some clever member of the bar, and amid crowd and heat the time flies away, so that at the end of an hour they seem only to have just got well into the subject, and are braced up for any further length which they may be called upon to hear;-with breathless silence will the House of Commons and a few lucky possessors of strangers' seats, be absorbed in a speech of hours' duration. The introduction of a budget has on two recent occasions occupied five or six hours, while not only a house crowded to suffocation has fairly shown its power of outlasting the physical endurance of the orator; but the very purlieux and lobbies have been filled, as if the mere proximity to

eloquence were of itself a pleasing sensation. But when the Sunday sermons arrive, how great the difference! In ten minutes there seems to have been enough of it. After that all is maze and confusion, between an ill-regulated manner of marking out his subject on the part of the preacher, increased by a droning mere reading delivery, and of a wandering sleepiness on the part of the listener. Should the whole exceed halfan-hour there is obvious impatience, as if an unjust punishment was being inflicted. We have heard that it is avowed by a celebrated statesman, one whose head has been severely tested by many labours, that he can get through all he has to do with patient endurance, except the hearing of sermons, which, nevertheless, he feels it his duty to submit to; nor, it may be right to remark, do we here refer to any kind of unpleasantness but that of being bored by unprofitable and unsatisfactory discourses. How few of our bishops can preach even respectably, with the exception of those who are worked to death to make up for the inability of others! There are popular preachers, run after by some, but, as we said before, there is an element of bad taste about most of the present day, which only the more proves what we would wish to substantiate, that there is great need in the education of our clergy of some means to train up, in good taste and in something like method, those who may have a natural power of language.

What are the causes, then, which, in a well-educated clergy like our own, depress that development of a good and true eloquence which might naturally be expected? Some of these causes may be unavoidable, and so far there results must be endured; but let us at any rate know them.

The much talked of perfection of the parochial system must, we fear, bear part of the blame. According to it the whole country is most usefully parcelled out into certain managable districts, over which an Incumbent presides, whose province it is generally supposed to be twofold; firstly, to do certain work himself, or obtain the assistance of assistant clergy in the shape of Curates to do it for him; and, secondly, to watch with jealous eye against the intrusion of any one else within his boundary. No other functions are recognised in our Church, no other licences are given, but in connexion with the parochial system. The Incumbent then, once in his parish, remains the sole dispenser of all Christian ministrations for perhaps his whole life, among which ministrations the custom of the age requires that he shall preach two sermons every Sunday of a respectable given length, to the same congregation. Whether he has any vocation for eloquence or not, that makes no difference; he may have been presented to his living for considerations far

different from such as would promise oratory; but, however incapable, he is nevertheless bound to the inevitable law of certain fixed sermons. This extreme uniformity in the exactions from every clergyman, be his vocation what it may, is of itself depressing to the general standard. It follows from it that a sermon ceases to be a real address from priest to people, and is looked upon by church-going people as but a form to be gone through, utterly regardless of the idea that they are being told of something which they must therefore do. A clergyman who ventures for once to give plain advice, or who endeavours to rouse his people, discovers that his words are lost in the very multitude of his sermons, many of which perhaps have been preached, less perhaps because he was conscious of anything that he wished to say, than because he was obliged to mount the pulpit. The number of sermons to be preached often outsteps all power of composition, and suggests the reading of those which are neither original nor new. On the other hand, the congregation, from hearing sermons so methodically and frequently, lose their relish and appreciation for really stirring addresses, and even dislike the worry and excitement occasioned by them. Anything that is a departure from the quietness of the Sunday, that occasions talk or risks controversy, is thought an innovation on their peace, and a preacher is a fanatic who will not allow his congregation to slumber through his discourses. It thus follows that quiet clergymen, who are personal friends with their flock, who visit their houses, and dine with the respectable families, who are mixed up with them in many secular affairs, become so overladen with a variety of quieting considerations, and are so void of foreign stimulus, that they are never able to command that freshness and vigour which are the requisite state of mind for a preacher to be useful and impressive. A clergyman's intercourse with his people, according to present custom, is only of that kind which rather weighs down his character as a preacher, and he has but little of that other kind of intercourse which admits him into the recesses of their hearts, and opens out a mutual confidence in spiritual affairs. He is good-naturedly received as a friend, and in that intercourse is led into the common familiarities of life, but he is not supposed to counteract the secular impressions by an inward knowledge of the hearts of his flock, and by the sobering effect on himself, which the sensation of being truly the physician to each individual soul would occasion. These remarks apply to the younger clergy in the first instance, but the style of preaching, being formed under the influence of these somewhat depressing causes, remains the same ever afterwards, and can never be shaken off. Here indeed is a great cause of the dulness we

allude to that clergy begin to preach at once, with the same regularity that will be required of them all through their ministry. Thus the delivery of sermons is never, except in a few of the larger metropolitan or country-town churches, associated with a gradually-inspired confidence, either on the part of the congregation or of ecclesiastical superiors. The exclusiveness, again, with which all religious functions in each parish are isolated, as it were, from the rest of the Christian world, and by the absence of common ties, by which parts of the same Church may hold common cause with many brethren, is a means of preventing many mutual interchanges of Christian friendship, both in priest and people, which might stimulate and encourage both to their mutual advantage. It is hard to keep up a sound and useful course of sermons, when the preacher and people are both mixed up in the affairs of daily life which mark the limits of one small parish, when two sermons have to be preached every Sunday, and when there are no opportunities of infusing fresh life, by occasional changes on the part of each. Yet such is our present system. How it might be otherwise we shall presently suggest, and meanwhile go on with our review of hindering causes.

The services of our Church are too long, especially the morning accumulation, for the sermon to have any fair chance. The inseparable connexion also between all sermons and the ritual of the Church, which prohibits any preaching except as following morning or evening prayers; or, on the other hand, any prayers but when followed by a sermon, is a great bar to the formation of what otherwise might be attractive occasions for assembling people together; at which, with some degree of freedom, a clergyman might address them rather for the purpose of bringing them to the Church's prayers and ordinances, than only on the condition of their being already attendants. The arrangement of churches, where the pew system is carried, is also detrimental to the warmth of preachers, inasmuch as it scatters his flock far and wide, contrary to all instincts which bring listeners together in one compact body round the speaker who is addressing. There are also no opportunities of preaching to different classes by themselves. Each congregation is composed of the same elements, rich and poor, young and old. It might surely be useful if occasional separation could be brought by some natural process, wherein each consulted his own convenience, in order that practical advice might be given to every condition of life, without that irritation which is often the consequence of one class being too closely lectured in presence of others, or without the miserable expedient of ragged churches. In fact, what we are wishing to advocate amounts to this; that

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