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you felt when you wrote them in private. The old remark is: your discourse is the offspring of your mind and heart. It was born with pangs of thought and emotion. It must be delivered in the pulpit with the same, or greater travail of soul. We have been told that every sermon must be born again when preached again. "Perhaps once in three or four months," said President Davies, "I preach in some measure as I could wish; that is, I preach as in the sight of God, and as if I were to step from the pulpit to the supreme. tribunal. I feel my subject. I melt into tears, or I shudder with horror, when I denounce the terrors of the Lord. I glow; I soar in sacred ecstasies, when the love of Jesus is my theme, and, as Mr. Baxter was wont to express it, in lines more striking to me than all the fine poetry in the world, "I preach as if I ne'er should preach again; And as a dying man to dying men."
§ 4. Preaching Memoriter.
The practice of committing a sermon to memory, and reading it as thus committed, has high authority in its favor. Some men have adopted the practice without recognizing it. Many preachers who are called revivalists, many agents of charitable societies, have delivered their sermons so often that they could not avoid uttering them memoriter. Whitefield is said to have preached more than eighteen thousand times; but the different sermons which he preached were comparatively few. He did not feel that he had full command of a discourse, until he had preached it the fortieth time. Then, however, it was in some degree committed to memory. A similar remark may be made of certain discourses preached by Dr. J. M. Mason, Dr. E. D. Griffin. In Scotland, and still more Germany, France, Switzerland, and Italy, the common practice has been to preach memoriter; not partly or virtually so, as the American practice has often been, but entirely, professedly, and formally so. "In a
1 See the inscription on Whitefield's Cenotaph, as recorded in Dr. Gillie's Memoirs of Whitefield, Hartford edition, 1851, p. 221.
period of general declension in reference to morals and religion, a royal mandate was issued to forbid the practice of reading sermons. The following prohibition of King Charles the Second is said to be on record in the statutebook of the University of Cambridge:
"To the Vice-Chancellor and Gentlemen. Whereas his Majesty is informed that the practice of reading sermons is generally taken up by the preachers before the University, and therefore sometimes continued before himself: his Majesty has commanded me to signify to you his pleasure that the said practice, which took its beginning from the disorders of the late times, be wholly laid aside, and that the said preachers deliver their sermons, both in Latin and English, by memory, without book, as being a way of preaching which his Majesty judges most agreeable to the use of all foreign churches, to the customs of the University heretofore, and to the nature and intention of that holy exercise. And that his Majesty's commands in these premises may be duly regarded and observed, his further pleasure is, that the names of all such ecclesiastical persons as shall continue the present supine and slothful way of preaching be from time to time signified to me by the Vice-Chancellor for the time, on pain of his Majesty's displeasure.
When we think that the method of repeating a sermon from memory has been more generally adopted than any other one, we feel the importance of treating it not only with attention, but also with respect.
I. Some men have a call from heaven to preach memoriter. They are endued with such a power of recollection that they can discourse more naturally in this method than in any other. We are familiar with the statements that Cyrus could retain the name of every soldier in his army; Themistocles, of every citizen of Athens; Napoleon Bonaparte, of every important place where the various detachments of his soldiers would halt or fight during a protracted campaign.
We are familiar with the marvellous feats of memory performed by Gassendi, Galileo, Michael Angelo, Bolingbroke, Porson, and other eminent scholars; with the exploits of unlettered men, as of the young Corsican who listened only once to the recital of hundreds1 of names, then repeated all of them in the same order in which he heard them, and afterward repeated them backward; of a plain man in Edinburgh, another in London, another in New York, who could on any day commit to memory all the paragraphs, and even advertisements, of the morning's newspaper. There is said to be still living an ignorant cicerone, who points out to strangers the wonders of a German cathedral, and is fluent in his English, Russian, Italian, Spanish, and French descriptions of its pillars, capitals, architraves, entablatures, arches, pictures, statues, relics, and yet does not understand a word of the five languages in which he entertains the visitors, but has merely learned and repeats his descriptions by the unintelligent effort of memory. Many clergymen, as Hales, Bates, Warburton, have been endued with a power equally marvellous. Dr. Parkhurst gave to Bishop Jewell some of the most difficult words which he could find; Bishop Hooper gave him forty Welsh, Irish, and foreign words, and Jewell, after reading them once or twice, repeated them forward and backward with perfect accuracy. Whatever he had once written, he could recite at any subsequent period. By one perusal of a sermon he could so impress it on his memory as to be able to repeat it without hesitation. There are many living clergymen who need only peruse as sermon twice on Sabbath morning and they can repeat it fluently in the pulpit on that day; at any subsequent time, they need only peruse that sermon once, and they can recite it verbatim et literatim as originally written. There are some living clergymen who need not write the discourse which they desire to remember, but, after having excogitated it, they can retain and preach it one or two years afterward, without any perceptible deviation from their first ideal. David Hume "thousands" instead of hundreds.
1 The report says,
had an exalted opinion of his contemporary, the Archbishop of Toulouse. He said that he had heard the Archbishop "repeat an elegant oration of an hour and a quarter in length, which he had never written";1 that he was in the habit of composing and correcting his discourses without writing them. Only a small number of men have this memorable genius. A larger number can make some approximation to it. Such men are elected to speak memoriter; if not always, yet on fit occasions; if not throughout the whole discourse, yet through a part of it.
II. The majority of preachers, although not specially fitted for speaking memoriter, may wisely cultivate the power of doing so. They may be overburdened by the effort of recalling an entire sermon, but they can easily hold in their recollection the more important paragraphs of it. They have facilities for improving their retentive power, even if it be not strong by nature. They can grasp with great tenacity the expressions which interest their feelings. I once knew an illiterate cobbler who in secular affairs evinced no special power of memory, but was so enamored of the New Testament that he remembered the whole of it. If the number of any verse in any chapter were stated to him, he could repeat the words of it, and if the words were repeated to him, he could state, not only the chapter and verse where they were to be found, but also the words prefixed as a title to the chapter. On the same principle, many a clergyman who has no special readiness or retentiveness in committing to memory the statements of scientists or historians, can easily recollect the emotional addresses in which his hearers will feel a peculiar interest, or such appeals to conscience as arouse his own. sensibilities. Preachers who possess, or who can readily acquire this facility of recollection should adopt some degree of the memoriter method.
It is often objected, and there is a truth in the objection, that a preacher aiming to remember his discourse for one
1 Life and Correspondence of David Hume, Vol. ii. p. 497.
Sabbath will forget it on the next day. The memory is a mysterious power, retaining for an occasion what is committed to it for that occasion, and refusing to do service when the time for which it was employed has gone by. It adopts a kind of legerdemain by which it will retain for a year, or for life, what was given to it for so lengthened a period. In learning a sermon by heart, the minister should adopt those principles of association by which the sermon will remain in his heart long after it has been recited. It is an encouraging truth that, sometimes, he will hold in his remembrance the thoughts and arrangements of his sermon when he will have forgotten the time and place, and even the fact of having written it. In the year 1846 a clergyman wrote a discourse for an important anniversary, and in the year 1857 was called to write another discourse for the recurring anniversary of the same institution. On comparing the second sermon with the first, he was surprised to find that the text of both was the same, the proposition and the divisions were identical, the thoughts and more than half the expressions were so nearly alike that a critic would suppose him to have intentionally made his second sermon an improved copy of the first. The substance of the sermon which he wrote eleven years before, he recollected but did not recognize. He retained not only the thoughts but also the phrases of it, but did not identify them as once familiar to him. Indeed, an author has been known to compose a treatise in defence of a theory, and twenty years afterward to compose a treatise in opposition to that same theory, and to cite and refute in his second treatise the identical arguments which he had advanced in the first, and during all this controversy, to forget that he, himself, was the original author to whom he had become the antagonist. Such facts remind us that a discourse will often linger when the history of it has lost its place in the memory which once held it. It will do good when it has ceased to be acknowledged. So true is it that, in the words of Bishop Hall, even the imperfect memory is "the Great Keeper and Master of the Rolls of the soul."