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Later Life of Massillon.
sadness, which, with all their splendor of style, extends itself over his sermons; and that he sometimes breaks out in certainly blameworthy sighs upon the fruitlessness to be apprehended in his preaching,
After Massillon had preached, with great distinction, in the seminary of Saint Magloire, he resolved to enter upon the great career of Catholic pulpit oratory in France, as Advent and Fast-day preacher. He commenced at Montpellier, and in the following year preached at Paris, where he met with the most extraordinary applause. In the same year, his thirty-sixth, he was called to preach in Versailles before the king and court. He preached the fast-day sermons before the king also in 1701 and 1704. A great effect was produced by a passage in one of these sermons, "upon the small number of the chosen," in which he supposes Christ in the midst of the assembly to judge them, and the various classes of sinners to be separated from the just. The effect of the passage was extraordinary. The king and those around him, the whole assembly were shaken. One will not be able to refrain from rejoicing at this testimony for the power of the Divine word. For it was not the arts of a worldly eloquence, which produced this effect; it was the word of God itself, which smote the heart as with a hammer. To be sure the word of God was here proclaimed to a mighty king, and a splendid court, with a fearlessness and a boldness, which must gain our esteem and veneration for the orator. These advent and fast-day sermons appear to me the best of all his works.
Louis XIV. seems to have entertained great esteem for Massillon, as is evident from the words which he addressed him. “I have heard,” says he, “many great preachers in my chapel, and have been very well satisfied with them; but every time that I have heard you, I have been very much dissatisfied with myself.” It did not escape the king, that Massillon sought not his own honor, but the welfare of his hearers, their conversion and change of heart. By these words he designated well the spirit of his eloquence; and the praise which he gave him was the best which can be bestowed upon a sacred orator,
He pronounced the funeral oration at the obsequies of the king, a difficult problem for one, who could never have accustomed himself to the tone of flattery; a problem which he solved in a striking and not in the happiest manner, by placing light and sbade side by side ; bestowing praise, and then destroying it, by the blame immediately added.
It was usual at that time, in France, to reward those, who had delivered a brilliant course of advent and fast-day sermons, with the office of bishop. This reward Massillon did not receive from Louis XIV; but was afterwards, through the Regent Duke of Orleans, appointed Bishop of Clermont. In the following year he was appointed to preach to Louis XV, then eight years old, and his attendants. In these sermons he commits the great mistake, of undertaking to instruct the young king upon all, which the high office, to which he was destined, demanded; instead of endeavoring to awaken in his mind, for the person of Christ, for his love, his sacrifice and bis favors, feelings of adoration, trust and love, and thus plant in the heart of the child the germ of a Christian life. But it may be said in his favor, that the passions of Louis XIV, his ambition and abuse of power, with all their sad consequences, stood in such living and terrifying colors before his eyes, that nothing appeared more necessary and urgent than to warn his successor from such errors; that his principles could not remain without influence upon the young king, if they were laid to heart by those who surrounded him, and were afterwards to guide his steps. And perhaps he flattered himself, if his words should be rescued from oblivion, to leave in them, for the future king, a permanent possession, and a mirror of all kingly virtues.
In 1719, Massillon became member of the French Academy. From this time till his death, in 1742, he remained in his diocese, and devoted himself, with the greatest fidelity, to the administration of his office. His revenues belonged to the poor; and in the ecclesiastical confusion of the times, he appeared as the man of peace.
In giving the description of a pulpit orator, we should aim chiefly to point out the means of religious influence peculiar to him, or which he has applied with particular success. Thereby we receive a clear and definite picture of the preacher himself, and of his work as an orator; we acquire a deeper insight into the nature of eloquence. In attempting to describe Massillon's manner of preaching we shall follow these principles. To this end, in order to point out more definitely the ineans employed by the preacher, for attaining the end proposed, it will be necessary to divide his sermons into certain classes, according as the most prominent point of view shall be that of eternal happiness, virtue, duty, or truth.
In preaching upon duty, it is the common procedure to represent the extent of the duty and the motives for fulfilling it. This method has the advantage of developing the thoughts in a connected manner; but it has the disadvantage, that by such considerations, which besides are commonly not unknown to the hearer, the opposition of the heart to the fulfilment of the divine commands is rarely broken. This Mas1849.] Sermons relating to eternal Happiness.
21 sillon probably perceived ; and although he pursues this method in several sermons of this class, yet in many has chosen an entirely different method. It rests upon the perfectly correct perception, that the bindrance to the fulfilment of duty lies not in the understanding but in the heart; that men allow the obligation to obey the Divine commands, but by various reasons, which the deluded and inventing heart suggests, seek to excuse the transgression of them. The method consists in this, instead of laboring to establish and recommend the duty directly; to refute these specious grounds of excuse, and so break the opposition of the heart. The development of the thoughts suffers indeed by this; for the connection, which binds together the divine doctrines and commands, is not fồund in the errors which arise from the corruption of man. But, on the other hand, the hearer is led, to such a degree, into his own heart, that he can no longer evade the question, how it stands with himself, nor conceal the wounded spot within. This method may be regarded as a new discovery, which Massillon has made in the field of eloquence; here he shows his peculiarity and his masterly talent. For the application of this method a great knowledge of the human heart is requisite. But to penetrate so deeply into the heart as Massillon has done, to follow with such perseverance, through all their mazes the thoughts, that would justify themselves; this presupposes a fidelity, a zeal, a love, which can be found only in a truly pious heart.
To the class of sermons, in which the prominent idea is that of duty, belong those of our author upon “afflictions,” upon “the love of our enemies," on "prayer," on “beneficence," and upon “death,” that is, the duty of reflecting upon death.
In speaking of those sermons of Massillon, in which the principal point of view is that of eternal happiness, we must recollect that he was a Catholic, and that, according to the doctrines of that church, salvation is not the gift of pure grace to believers, but must be gained by their own efforts and good works; whereas it is the doctrine of the evangelical church, that salvation is a pure gift of grace, imparted upon the sole condition of faith.
Massillon treats the idea of salvation and misery in a twofold way: in the one he describes the conditions belonging to each, this may be called the descriptive method ; in the other, he designates the various causes by which we are brought to the one or the other. The description of an object is one of the surest means which eloquence employs to awaken, in reference to that object, the various emotions which determine the will, as inclination and disinclination, desire and fear. But to describe an object is not to portray the various elements
in the conception of that object, but to fill out the general outlines of the conception with elements from the ever new and ever changing life; in characters and relations, to seize and bring to view those points which escape most men, but which every one, as soon as they are pointed out to him, will recognize as true; not to place together these elements in a cold enumeration, but with the glow of emotion, which one wishes to awaken, and which he himself feels, to impress them, as a complete picture, upon the heart of the hearer. That orator alone can give such descriptions, who possesses the gift of observation in a high degree, increased by self-knowledge; and upon whose susceptible and deep feeling these objects produce impressions as quick and lively, as they are constant and 'enduring. That Massillon possessed these qualities in a high degree may be seen in his descriptions, which by their intuitive truth, their stirring power and life, form one of the most essential excellences of his eloquence.
In the class of those sermons which treat of eternal blessedness, are those upon the happiness of the pious," "upon the final judgment,” the powerful sermon on “the death of the wicked and the pious,” in which he paints the misery of the one, and the joy with which the other approaches death. Here belongs also one of his most celebrated sermons,“ upon the small number of the chosen," which, as we have mentioned, produced great effect. In one passage of this sermon he declares himself in plain terms against the theatre. Here also belongs the sermon
upon impenitence in death.” The sermons whose prominent idea is that of virtue, refer to a permanent form of the spiritual life, to a quality, a disposition, which either belongs to a godly life, and is then encouraged; or is incompatable with that life, and is then combated. To paint the condition of which one speaks; to bring to view the marks, by which it may be shown to be good or sinful; to represent its salutary or corrupting effects; these are commonly the predominant points of view in this class of sermons, and according to these, the sermons of Massillon, in this class, are constructed. To these belong the sermons upon “lukewarmness,” “relapse into sin.” In these two, and in all of this class, Massillon shows his deep knowledge of the human heart, and his gift in delineating its conditions; and as he always penetrates deeply into the subject, and does not shun theological expositions, there will be no cause to complain of a want of true and important thoughts. Here belong some of his homilies, as those upon “the rich man," “ upon the history of Lazarus," and that pearl of his homilies, “ upon the lost son.”
As examples of sermons according to the idea of truth, we will
1849.] Character of the Eloquence of Massillon.
23 mention two, the one " upon the immortality of the soul,” and that “ upon the Divinity of Christ.” This last merits the first place among his sermons of this class, and is one of the best of all his sermons; it is excellent in carrying out individual points, and complete as a whole, and is a pattern for the rhetorical treatment of a theological doctrine. The grounds which he adduces are prophecies, miracles, the testimony of Christ, and the character of his teaching. He appeals to the sense of truth and the moral feeling of man for the confirmation of two principles ; first, it is inconceivable that God, in the arrangements of his providence, could have bad the design to mislead men to error, to idolatry, to the worship of a created being; secondly, it is just as inconceivable, considering the holiness of Christ, which shines forth in his whole life, that he could have rendered himself guilty of deceiving men and robbing God of his honor. The first of these principles he applies to prophecy and miracles, the second to the precepts of Christ and the testimony which he gives of himself; and he shows that a man who makes himself equal with God, and assumes the divine privilege of being loved above all else, has deceived men and robbed God of his glory, unless he himself is true God. In the union of these two principles with these proofs, and in the dialectical movement of the thoughts that arise therefrom; in urging to the dilemma, either to assume that which is inconceivable and awakens abhorrence, or confess the divinity of Christ; in this lies the nerve of the sermon. The sermon is divided into two parts; in the first he seeks to establish the divinity of Christ from the glory of his mission, in the second from the spirit of his mission; the first referring to prophecy and miracles, the second to the doctrines and morals taught by Christ.
Massillon was a believing, pious, and upright man; with this trait, which no true sacred orator must be without, we can begin the delineation of his oratorical character. In the various grades of his ministry he lived only for his calling. His faith was lively and sincere; his moral principles strict, nor does he conceal them; he maintains them in the face of a degenerate age. He chastises the life of courts, and the abuses which had crept into the church, and declares the truth before the king. His intellectual capacities were favorably balanced for the orator; and although he was wanting neither in fancy nor in the gift of deep and connected thought, yet neither of the two is disproportionately prominent, the faculty which appears more prominently than the others in him, is not one of the intellect, but of the heart; it is feeling. And this is awakened in him especially by that, which corresponds to or opposes the moral requisitions. It is awakened by