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dows; it is also apt to injure his vocal organs, especially when he adopts the constrained position of a close reader, and his larynx is compressed and tortured by his bent form.
3 The public reading of his sermons disqualifies the minister for the full use of his corporeal powers. These may be pictures of the truth which he exhibits. He may illustrate his thoughts by them, as by diagrams. The old description of a preacher is: "Vivida in eo omnia fuerunt; vivida vox, vividi occuli, vividi manus, gestus omnes vividi." But the reader must sometimes turn his lively eye upon his papers, must employ his lively hand in holding or turning them, must give his head in part to his chirography, and not wholly to his auditors. He speaks of the stars of heaven while he is watching his interlined phrases. He exclaims: "Behold the morning sun," while he bends over a blotted paragraph. The face is the speech of the body, and the eye is the emphasis of the face; and when this is habitually concealed from the spectators, they lose the full meaning of what they hear.
4. Hence we remark that the uniform habit of reading sermons degenerates easily into an inapposite, stupid, vicious delivery. We must remember that we are concerned with not only the powers of a man, but also his prevailing tendencies. While we admit that a preacher who never extemporizes can read his discourse so easily and naturally that it may appear to be extemporaneous, we must confess that only a few preachers will do so, and still fewer will do so uniformly. Unless a preacher's reading be modified by his extemporaneous addresses, it will, in the general, become inflexible and monotonous. So it has been; so it is now. "Dull as a parson," "stupid as a sermon," are phrases suggested by the close reading of homilies. It is unfair to adduce extreme instances of vicious elocution, as if they were inevitable to a reader; but it is fair to mention them as illustrating the tendencies of his habit. He must, for example, keep his place in the manuscript, and therefore keep his eye or his finger, or both, on the wrong object.
A few years ago an excellent writer was reading in his pulpit. the words: "Let justice be done, though the heavens fall." When he spoke of the heavens he made a sweeping gesture, as if he would brush the skies away, with his left hand; but he kept a sharp lookout for his papers; he kept his right hand fixed upon them, and seemed to feel that what he had written must be held fast, whatever became of the heavens. Since the preceding sentences were penned, a fine scholar was reading in the pulpit an exhortation to instant repentance. But he must turn over the leaves of his manuscript, and, while he was saying: "My heart's desire is to see," he turned over two leaves instead of one, lost his place — what was he desiring to see?"you instantly," he added; but the critical instant had already fled; and then, finding the right page, he subjoined, "begin a new course of life." Did any man ever change his course under the influence of such a broken sentence? While the president of a New England college, was preaching on the text, "Take heed how ye hear," he read, in a fixed monotone, the following sentence: "If a man should knock at your window in the night, and cry, 'fire, fire; the building is on fire, be quick, no time to be lost,' would you say, 'what a voice that man has, I do not like his tones, he does not make graceful gestures'?" This was the monotonous question. The honest answer must have been: "Yes; if a man should really come to my window at dead of night, and hold the president's paper in his hand, and read the president's identical words, 'fire, fire,' with no other tones and gestures than those which the president employed, we should either repeat the president's criticisms upon the man, or else infer that the man was in sport, if not insane." It is easy to say that each of these faults is an abuse of the reading method, and may be avoided. This is true. It is not so much the actual fault, as the tendency to it, which we now consider.
5. Hence we add that the practice of reading sermons, if it be uniform, is liable to deadening forms of abuse. Is not every other method, if uniform, liable to perversion? Yes;
therefore the intermingling of different methods is the safest. Not only is the habitual reader apt to be somnolent and somnific in his manner, but also inopportune in his matter. He fails to speak the word in season. He fails to gain the power of adapting his paragraphs, written in one mood, to the exigencies of his hearers, who are in a different mood. The children whispering in the gallery above, their fathers sleeping in the pews below, a sudden commotion in the sanctuary, a rumored casualty in the streets, may render some of his written sentences obsolete, and may require some fresh words fitly spoken. Although he may not lapse so far as to express gratitude for the fine weather while it is storming, or joy in the stillness of the Sabbath while it is thundering, yet he often expresses thoughts which he would modify if he could extemporize. His slight infelicities are perhaps unnoticed; but they are felt; and sometimes he falls into extravagances of unfitness. He writes a sermon at the seaside, and years afterward preaches it in the heart of the country, where he endeavors to dissuade his hearers from usages which are unknown to them. He exhorts young men against wasting their time at the confectionary; for his exhortation was written long ago in a village where there really was such a tempting institution. One of the brightest of living scholars stated, while preaching in the year 1853, that the infidelity of the age was a main cause of the revolutions then raging in Europe. He forgot that his sermon was written five years before, when his statements were true. A German informs us of a pulpit reader who alluded to the plague which had recently broken out in his parish. Being asked where it had appeared, he was startled, and said: "In my sermon." It need not be replied that there is no danger of such monstrous blunders. In a discourse on a critical theme, a slight error may be enormous. It is not the error, it is the tendency to it, which belongs to the human nature of an habitual reader. His practice exposes him to a hebetude which facilitates some degree of ill-timed allusion; an immobility which prevents him from rectifying
a sentence which he begins to utter before he detects its inaptness. Sometimes he becomes so dependent on his notes that, if some of them be misplaced, or if the light on the pulpit be too dim, or if his chirography be illegible, he must close the service with the apostolic benediction.
IV. The rules for the public reading of sermons are suggested by the fact that it should be modified by the other methods of delivery. The manuscript should be written in large characters, so as to be easily legible; it should be held in such a position that the reader may without a motion of his head turn his eye from the paper to the congregation; it should be so familiar to him that he may look at his hearers during the larger part of his address; he should so engrave some passages on his memory that in uttering them he may be independent of his paper; he should have such a mastery of it, and of his theme, and of himself, that he may vary his words in conformity with the varying exigencies of his hearers. It is an interesting fact that some of the best rules for reading sermons have been given by Cotton Mather. He says:
"If you must have your notes before you in your preaching, and it be needful for you, de scripto dicere, what even some of the most famous orators, both among the Grecians and among the Romans did (Pliny says: Orationes et nostri quidam et Graeci lectitaverunt), yet let there be with you a distinction between the neat using of notes and the dull reading of them. Keep up the air and life of speaking, and put not off your hearers with an heavy reading to them. How can you demand of them to remember much of what you bring to them, when you remember nothing of it yourself? Besides, by reading all you say, you will so cramp and stunt all ability for speaking that you will be unable to make an handsome speech on any occasion. What I, therefore, advise you to, is: Let your notes be little other than a quiver, on which you may cast your eye now and then, to see what arrow is to be next fetched from thence; and then, with your eye as much as may be on them whom you speak to, let it be shot away, with a vivacity becoming one in earnest for to have the truths well entertained with the auditory."1
1 Manuductio ad Ministerium. Directions for a Candidate of the Ministry, pp. 105, 106.
As we should not have expected such valuable rules from Cotton Mather, neither should we have imagined that Dean Swift would anticipate, as he has done, the suggestions of modern elocutionists. He says:
"I knew a clergyman of some distinction, who appeared to deliver his sermon without looking into his notes, which when I complimented him upon, he assured me he could not repeat six lines; but his method was to write the whole sermon in a large, plain hand, with all the forms of margin, paragraph, marked page, and the like; then on Sunday morning he took care to run it over five or six times, which he could do in an hour; and when he delivered it, by pretending to turn his face from one side to the other, he would (in his own expression) pick up the lines, and cheat his people by making them believe he had it all by heart. He farther added, that whenever he happened by neglect to omit any of these circumstances, the vogue of the parish was, 'our doctor gave us but an indifferent sermon to-day.' Now among us, many clergymen act so directly contrary to this method, that from a habit of saving time and paper (which they acquired at the university), they write in so diminutive a manner, with such frequent blots and interlineations, that they are hardly able to go on without perpetual hesitations, or extemporary expletives."
"You will observe some clergymen with their heads held down from the beginning to the end, within an inch of the cushion, to read what is hardly legible; which, beside the untoward manner, hinders them from making the best advantage of their voice: others again have a trick of popping up and down every moment from their paper to the audience, like an idle school-boy on a repetition day. Let me entreat you, therefore, to add one half-crown a year to the article of paper; to transcribe your sermons in as large and plain a manner as you can; and either make no interlineations, or change the whole leaf; for we, your hearers, would rather you should be less correct, than perpetually stammering, which I take to be one of the worst solecisms in rhetoric. And lastly, read your sermon once or twice a day for a few days before you preach it; to which you will probably answer some years hence that it was but just finished when the last bell rang to church;' and I shall readily believe, but not excuse you."2
The only rule, however, which can redeem the reading of a sermon from the charge of artificial and perfunctory address is this: Cherish a deep religious interest in your words when you read them in public; even a profounder interest than
1 See for a different method of simulation § 3. I. 4. B. above. Mr. Edward Everett when preaching memoriter adopted a still different method.
2 British Classics, Vol. viii. pp. 14, 15.