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by first reading the preface, in order to see if we can find any fault in it; and then, by examining the refutation, to see whether it be just and solid, and supported by sound arguments.

The principle I have laid down from St. Austin's rules, viz. that the Christian orator may, and even ought to strive to please the auditor, must be kept within certain limits, and requires some illustration. Two defects must be avoided in preaching; the one consists in taking too much pains about the ornaments and graces of discourse, and the other in neglecting them. I shall say something of each.



It is very blameable in a Christian orator, to endeavour more at pleasing than instructing his auditors; and to be more solicitous about words than things; to rely too much upon his labour and preparation; to enervate the force of the truths he is denouncing, by a puerile affectation of bright thoughts; in a word to adulterate and corrupt God's word, by a vicious mixture of trifling ornaments.

[q] St. Jerom, whose taste for Eloquence and the graces of discourse are well known, could not suffer the Christian orator, (neglecting to instruct himself and others in the very principles of religion) to enploy himself only as a declaimer, to please people; nor that the august Eloquence of the Pulpit should degenerate into a vain parade of words, fit for nothing more than to gain a little trifling applause. [r] St. Ambrose was of the same opinion, and would banish absolutely that kind of embroidery from preaching, whose only effect is to make thoughts more languid.

[9] Nolo te declamatorem esse & rabulam, garrulumque sine ratione.

Verba volvere, & celeritate dicendi apud imperitum vulgus admi

rationem sui facere, indoctorum hominum est. S. Hieron. Epist. ad Nepot.

[r] Comment. 1.8.


Aufer mihi lenocinia fucumque verborum, quia solent

enervare sententias.

God tells us in Ezekiel, how much he detested the unhappy disposition of the Israelites, [s] who instead of improving by the sad predictions of his prophet, and being alarmed by them to their advantage, went to hear him only for diversion's sake, as to a concert of music. How much would he have reproached the prophet himself, had he given occasion for so shameful an abuse, through any fault or neglect of his, by endeavouring merely to gratify the ears of his auditors by a soft harmony and an empty sound of words? This is the just character of sermons, of which nothing remains but the unprofitable remembrance of the pleasure they gave when spoke.

A certain heathen complained, that in his time these light graces of style, which ought to be employed in subjects of a less grave and serious nature, had done a kind of violence to good sense and reason; and possessed themselves, as it were, by force, even of the suits or causes in which the lives and fortunes of men were debated. [t] In ipsa capitis aut fortunarum pericula irrupit voluptas.

How much more ought this abuse to be condemned in religious discourses, in which the gravest, and at the same time the most awful subjects are handled? In which it is intended, for instance, to humble and intimidate the sinner in order to effect this salvation, by representing the horrors of death to be nearer him than perhaps he imagines; the cry of the blood of Christ Jesus, which demands vengeance for having been so long profaned; the anger of a justly exasperated God, ready to fall upon his head; and hell open under his feet, in order to swallow him up?

[u] Is a preacher excusable, amidst such great truths as these, to employ himself wholly on an empty pomp

[] Et eis quasi carmen musicum, quod suavi dulcique sono canitur: et audiunt verba tua, et non faciunt. Ezek. xxxiii. 32.

[] Quint. 1. 4. C. 2.

[u] An quisquam tulerit reum in discrimine capitis, decurrentibus periodis, quam lætissimis locis sententiisque dicentem?... Quò fugerit interim dolor ille? Ubi lachry


pomp of elocution; to go in search of bright thoughts, to make his periods harmonious, and to croud a set of empty figures one upon the other? What becomes in the mean time of that grief and sadness which ought to pierce his soul whilst he is discoursing on such subjects, and which ought to make his whole discourse one continued groan, as it were? Might we not justly be angry, should the preacher endeavour to display his genius, and had leisure to act the fine speaker, at a time when thunder and lightning only should appear, and the most lively and animated emotions of the soul?



Another fault in preaching, much more common than the former, and of infinitely worse consequence, is, the being too careless of the elocution; the not having a sufficient respect for the audience, the appearing before them without almost any preparation, the speaking extempore whatever occurs, frequently without order, choice, or justness; and by this affected negligence giving the hearers a distaste and contempt for the word of God, which in itself is worthy of engaging the esteem and awe of mankind, and ought to be their sweetest consolation, their most solid glory.

The aim and design which every worthy preacher proposes in addressing himself to Christians, is to persuade them, in order to incline them to virtue, and to give them an abhorrence to vice; but all do not einploy the necessary means to those great ends, nor

mæ substiterint? Unde te in medium tam secura observatio artium miserit? Non ab exordio usque ad ultimam vocem continuus quidam ge. mitus,& idem tristitiæ vultus servabitur?... Commoveaturne quisquam ejus fortuna, quem tumidum

ac sui jactantem, & ambitiosum institorem eloquentiæ in ancipiti sorte videat? Non imò oderit rerum verba aucupantem, & anxium de famâ ingenii, & cui esse diserto vacet. Quint. 1. 11. c. I.


study to speak in a persuasive manner. It is this forms the difference between good and bad preachers. [r] The latter, says St. Austin, preach in a gross, disagreeable and cold manner, obtuse, deformiter, frigide; the former with ingenuity, beauty, and strength, acutè, ornatè, vehementer.

The salvation of most Christians, as well as their faith, depend on the word; but this word must be treated with art and skill, in order that the minds of people may be prepared to receive it. The ornament of speech is one of the means conducive to this purpose, and the reason of it is very plain; viz. the auditor must not only hear what is spoke, but hear it willingly: [y] volumus non solùm intelligenter, verùm etiam libenter audiri. Now how can he hear it willingly, unless he is induced by pleasure? [z] Quis tenetur ut audiat, si non delectetur?... [a] Quis eum (oratorem) velit audire, nisi auditorem nonnullà etiam suavitate detineat?"Who can bear to hear an orator, if he be not allured with something sweet and pleasant?" But this ornament of speech is not incompatible with simplicity; for this simplicity must not be gross, tedious, and distasteful: [b] Nolumus fastidiri etiam quod submisse dicimus. There is a medium between a far-fetched, florid, luminous; and a low, grovelling, careless style: and it is the medium between these that suits the preacher. [c] Illa quoque eloquentia generis temperati apud eloquentem ecclesiasticum, nec inornata relinquitur, nec indecenter or


Christians would know much more than they do, were they to frequent regularly their parish churches, which they are more indispensably obliged to do than is generally imagined; and were sermons written and delivered as they ought to be, which is a duty no less incumbent on the preacher. What affliction, what grief must those feel, who have some idea of the importance of this ministry, to see their churches gene

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rally empty, or very thin; especially if they are conscious that it is their cold, languid, tiresome, and often long-winded manner of speaking, which prevents their parishioners from coming to hear them? Hereby they are wanting in the most important duty of their function; they deceive the expectation of their hearers, who run eagerly in order to supply their necessities, but are obliged to return empty. They degrade the word of God by their careless delivery, and cause it to be looked upon with contempt and distaste. They dishonour the Divine Majesty, whose [d] embassadors they are; and they do not consider, that, should the envoy of an earthly monarch behave in this manner, he would be justly looked upon by his sovereign as a prevaricator.

They are far from observing the conduct of that Greek orator, who never spoke in public till he had duly prepared himself for it; and besought the gods before he came out of his house, not to suffer one word to fall from him unworthy of his auditors: or of that Roman orator, who though so eminent, declares, [e] that he never pleaded any cause, till after he had taken all the pains requisite for that purpose. I dare not translate the words which Quintilian [f] levels against that lawyer, who should be wanting in this duty, so essential to his profession; but which is much more so to that of a minister of the word of God, on which the salvation of his hearers depends.

I am sensible, 'that the multitude of affairs, in which such pastors as are careful of their duty must be engaged, allow them but very little time to prepare their sermons. But we are not here treating of pieces of Eloquence, laboured and polished with the utmost care; which require long application, and consequently complete leisure. The preacher, who, [d] Legatione fungimur.

* Pericles.

[e] Ad illam causaram operam nunquam nisi paratus & meditatus accedo. Cic. 1. 1. de Leg. n. 12.

[] Afferet ad dicendum curæ

semper quantum plurimum poterit Neque enim solùm negligentis, sed & mali, & in susceptà causâ perfidi, ac proditoris est, pejùs agere quàm possit. Quint. 1, 12. c. 9.


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