I say the PULPIT, (in the sober use
Of its legitimate, peculiar pow'rs,)
Must stand acknowledg'd, while the world shall stand,
The most important and effectual guard,
Support, and ornament of Virtue's cause.' - COWPER.
What is Truth?|
Preaching, before Cranmer's Time
Holy Maid of Kent's Conspiracy
Reign of Mary
Precept and Practice
Sea Captain made Bishop
A Popular Preacher
A Reproof to Sleepers
A Large Parish
Trope for Trope
Reading the Athanasian Creed
Truth will Out
Sermon by Sir Joshua Reynolds
Late Attendance at Public Worship
Garrick's Precepts to Preachers
Apology for Flattery
Puritan Court Preachers
'Love One Another.'
Absence of Mind
Burnet and Sprat
A Scottish Covenanter
Tributes to the Faith
Calamy's Reproof to General Monk
The Two Abbots
Turning out a Congregation
Stillingfleet and Charles II
Praying for our Enemies
'Loyal Men of Kendal.'
Bishop of Cloyne
A Long Sermon
'The Practice of Piety.'
Chesterfield and Bolingbroke at Church
Borrowing a Sermon
A Hit at Metaphysics
Vincent de Paul
Sharp, Archbishop of York
Frederick the Great
The Pastor Restored
The Bastille, or a Bishopric
Bishop of Aeth
Shortening a Discourse
A Voluminous Preacher
Failure of Memory
Avoiding a Difficulty
Funeral Sermon of Dr. Priestley
Funeral Sermon for Cromwell
Sleeping at Church
Revocation of the Edict of Nantz
A Sermon for Cardinals
Youth and Age
Jewel's Last Sermon
Fletcher of Madely
Preaching in Irish
Sermon on the Execution of Charles I
School of Knox
The Prize of the High Calling
What is Truth?
FATHER FULGENTIO, the friend and biographer of the celebrated Paul Sarpi, both of them secret friends to the progress of religious reformation, was once preaching upon Pilate's question, 'What is truth?' He told the audience that he had at last, after many searches, found it out, and holding forth a New Testament, said, 'Here it is my friends, but added sorrowfully, as he returned it to his pocket, 'It is a sealed book.' It has been since the glory of the reformation to break the seal which priestly craft had imposed upon it, and to lay its blessed treasures open to the universal participation of mankind.
'Behold the picture! Is it like? - Like whom?
The things that mount the rostrum with a skip,
And then skip down again; pronounce a text;
Cry-Hem! and reading what they never wrote
Just fifteen minutes, huddle up their work,
And with a well-bred whisper close the scene.'
The practice of reading sermons from the pulpit is now so common, that were a minister of the Established Church to preach extemporaneously, he would subject himself to the imputation of being a Sectarian, and would be regarded in the diocese with almost as much jealousy as if he had violated the whole of the articles in the rubric. This custom, now so prevalent, was well reproved by Charles II. who issued the following ordinance on the subject, to the University of Cambridge.
'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 continues even before himself; his majesty hath commanded me to signify to you his pleasure, that the said practice, which took its beginning from the disorders 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 judgeth most agreeable to the use of foreign churches, to the custom of the University heretofore, and to the nature of that holy exercise. And that his majesty's command 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 being, on pain of his majesty's displeasure. October 8, 1674. 'MONMOUTH.'
The practice of reading sermons must not, however, be too unreservedly condemned. It is often more a matter of necessity than choice. Dr. Sanderson, so well known for his 'Cases of Conscience,' had an extraordinary memory, but was so bashful and timorous withal, that it was of no use in the delivery of his sermons, which he was in a manner compelled to read. Dr. Hammond being once on a visit to him, laboured to persuade him to trust to his excellent memory, and to give up the habit of reading. Dr. Sanderson promised to make the experiment; and as he went to church on the Sunday following, put into Dr. Hammond's hands the manuscript of the sermon he intended to deliver. The sermon was a very short one; but before the doctor had gone through a third part of it, he became disordered, incoherent, and almost incapable of finishing. On his return, be said, with much earnestness, to Dr. H., 'Good doctor give me my sermon, and know, that neither you, nor any man living shall ever persuade me to preach again without book.' Hammond replied, 'Good doctor, be not angry; for if I ever persuade you to preach again without book, I will give you leave to burn all those that I am master of.'
Aubrey says, that when he was a freshman at college, and heard Dr. S. read his first lecture, he was out in the Lord's Prayer!
It was remarked, when his sermons were printed, in 1632, that 'the best sermons that were ever read, were never preached.'
Even the great Masillon once stopped short in the middle of a sermon from defect of memory; and the same thing happened through excess of apprehension, to two other preachers, whom Masillon went in different parts of the same day to hear.
Prolixity is one of the very common arts for obtaining popularity. The ignorant are too apt to estimate the value of preaching like that of more worldly matter, by the quantity rather than the quality; and by a fondness for large doses, get more often intoxicated than refreshed. 'Immoderate length, in all kinds of religious offices,' says Dr. Campbell, in his 'Lectures on the Pastoral Character,' 'has ever had an influence on weak and superstitious minds; and for this reason, those who have hypocritically affected the religious character, have ever chosen to distinguish themselves by this circumstance. The Pharisees, who made use of religion as a cover to their pride and extortion, "for a pretence," as our Lord tells us, "made long prayers." He who never spoke a word in vain, did not add the epithet, "long," unmeaningly; the length of their devotions, as well as the breadth of their phylacteries, and the largeness of the fringes at the corners of their garments, were all so many engines of their craft.'
Dr. South, speaking of some popular leaders who rivalled one another in respect of their influence on the multitude, takes notice of a new sort of gymnastic exercise in which they engaged, unheard of among the ancients, which he denominates, emphatically enough, 'preaching prizes,' that is, as it would seem, vieing with one another who shall hold forth longest. . 'Can anything,' as Dr. Campbell asks truly, 'of the nature, use, and end of preaching be understood or regarded, where such a pharisaic trick is put in practice?' It may be said, that the appetite of some persons is here insatiable. Depend on it, wherever that is the case, it is a false appetite, and followed by no digestion. The whole significancy of those exercises to such, is the time spent in them, and the transient emotions they feel when thus employed.'
For the purpose of restraining preachers in the length of their sermons, hour-glasses were introduced nearly about the same period as the reformation.
In the frontispiece prefixed to the Holy Bible of the bishop's translation, imprinted by John Day, 1569, 4to. Archbishop Parker is represented with an hour-glass standing on his right hand. Clocks and watches being then but rarely in use, the hour-glass was had recourse to, as the only convenient remembrancer which the state of the arts could supply. The practice of using them became generally prevalent, and continued to the time of the revolution in 1688; the hour-glass was placed either on a side of the pulpit, or on a stand in front of it. 'One whole houre-glasse,' 'One halfe houre-glasse,' occur in an inventory taken about 1632, of the goods and implements belonging to the church of All Saints, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. (Brand's 'History of Newcastle,' vol. 11. P. 370. notes.)
Daniel Burgess, a nonconformist preacher at the beginning of the last century, alike famous for the length of his pulpit harangues and for the quaintness of his illustrations, was once declaiming with great vehemence against the sin of drunkenness. Having exhausted the usual time, he turned the hour-glass, and said, 'Brethren, I have somewhat more to say on the nature and consequences of drunkenness, so let's have the other glass, and then.'
The witticism seems to have been borrowed from the frontispiece of a small book, entitled 'England's Shame, or a Relation of the Life and Death of Hugh Peters, by Dr. William Young, 1663.' Hugh Peters is here represented preaching, and holding an hour-glass in his left hand, in the act of saying, 'I know you are good fellows, so let's have another glass.'
Preaching, before Cranmer's Time.
In the reign of Henry the Eighth, pulpit eloquence was little more than a gross attempt to exalt the power of the Church, until Bishop Cranmer saw its abuse, and endeavoured to make it the vehicle of instruction. How much a reformation in preaching was wanting may be judged of from the printed sermons of the times. In one of these discourses, the priest, inveighing against irreverence to the ministers of religion, relates the following story:- 'St. Austin,' says he, 'saw two women prating together in the Pope's chapel, and the fiend sitting on their necks writing a long roll of what the women said. Presently, letting it fall, St. Austin took it up, and asking the women what they had said, they answered only a few paternosters. Then St. Austin read the bill, and there was never a good word in it.' In another sermon we are told - 'That four men had stolen an abbot's ox. The abbot gave sentence and cursed them. Three of them were shriven, and asked mercy. The fourth died without being absolved, so that when he was dead his spirit walked by night, and scared all who stirred from their houses after sunset. It happened that once, as a priest went in the night with God's body to a sick man, the spirit met him, and told him who he was, and why he walked, and prayed the priest to tell his wife to make amends to the abbot, that he might absolve him, for he could have no rest till then. So this was done, and the poor soul at length went to rest.' In a sermon upon the mass, a priest told his hearers, among other benefits arising from it, that 'On the day they hear it all idle oaths and forgotten sins shall be forgiven. On that day they shall not lose their sight, nor die a sudden death, nor wax aged, and every step thitherward and homeward an angel shall reckon.'
Holy Maid of Kent's Conspiracy.
At the time of the noted imposture of the 'Holy Maid of Kent,' who pretended that God had revealed that in case Henry VIII. should divorce Queen Catherine of Arragon, and take another wife during her life, his royalty would not be of a month's duration, but he should die the death of a villain; one Peto, who appears to have been an accomplice in the imposture, was preaching before Henry, at Greenwich, and in the same strain with the nun, did not scruple to tell his Majesty to his face that he had been deceived by many lying prophets, while himself, as, a true Micaiah, warned him that the dogs should lick his blood as they had licked the blood of Ahab. Henry bore this outrageous insult with a moderation not very usual to him; but to undeceive the people he appointed Dr. Curwin to preach before him on the Sunday following, who justified the king's proceedings, and branded Peto with the epithets of 'rebel, slanderer, dog, and traitor.' Curwin, however, was interrupted by a friar, who called him 'a lying prophet, who sought to alter the succession of the crown,' and proceeded so virulently to abuse him that the king was obliged to interpose, and command him to be silent. Peto and the friar were afterwards summoned before the king and council, but were only reprimanded for their insolence.
The appointment of bishops and other ecclesiastics to lay offices, and more especially to places in the mint, during the reign of Edward VI., was severely censured by the intrepid and venerable Bishop Latimer, who denounced it boldly from the pulpit. In one of his sermons on the number of unpreaching prelates, he said, 'But they are otherwise occupied, some in king's matters, some are ambassadors, some of the privy council, some to furnish the court, some are lords of parliament, some are presidents, and some comptrollers of mints. Well, well! Is this their duty? Is this their office? Is this their calling? Should we have ministers of the church to be comptrollers of mints? Is this a meet office for a priest that hath the cure of souls? Is this his charge? I would here ask one question: I would fain know who comptrolleth the devil at home in his parish while he comptrolleth the mint? If the apostles might not leave the office of preaching to be deacons, shall one leave it for minting? I cannot tell you; but the saying is that since priests have been minters, money hath been worse than it was before.'
In another part of his discourse, the good bishop proceeds to ask, 'Is there never a nobleman to be Lord President, but it must be a prelate? Is there never a wise man in the realm to be a comptroller of the mint? I speak it to your shame, I speak it to your shame. If there be never a wise man, make a water-bearer, a tinker, a cobbler, a slave, a page, the comptrollers of the mint. Make a mean gentleman, a groom, a yeoman, make a poor beggar, Lord President. Thus I speak, not that I would have it so, but to your shame, if there be never a gentleman meet nor able to be Lord President. For why are not the noblemen and young gentlemen of England so brought up in knowledge of God and in learning, that they might be able to execute offices in the commonweal? Yea, and there be already noblemen enough, though not so many as I could wish, to be Lord Presidents, and wise men enough for the mint. And as unmeet a thing it is for bishops to be Lord Presidents, or priests to be minters, as it was for the Corinthians to plead matters of variance before judges.'
In the year 1555, a Mr. Tavernier, of Bresley, in Norfolk, had a special license signed by King Edward the Sixth, authorising him to preach in any place of his Majesty's dominions, though he was a layman, and he is said to have preached before the king at court, wearing a velvet bonnet or round cap, a damask gown, and a gold chain about his neck. In the reign of Mary, he appeared in the pulpit at St. Mary's, Oxford, with a sword by his side, and a gold chain about his neck, and preached to the scholars, beginning his sermon in these words: 'Arriving at the mount of St. Mary's, in the Stony Stage where I now Stand, I have brought you some fine biscuits, baked in the oven of Charity, Carefully Conserved for the Chickens of the Church.' This sort of style, especially the alliterative part of it, was much admired in those days, even by the most accomplished of scholars, and was long after in great favour both with speakers and hearers.
At the time that Mr. Tavernier first received commission as a preacher, good preaching was so very scarce that not only the king's chaplains were obliged to make circuits round the country to instruct the people, and to fortify them against popery, but even laymen, who were scholars, were employed for that purpose.
Reign of Mary.
On the accession of Queen Mary to the throne, all the Protestant pulpits were shut up; the most eminent preachers in London were put in confinement, and all the married clergy throughout the kingdom were deprived of their benefices. Dr. Parker calculates, that out of sixteen thousand clergymen, not less than twelve thousand were turned out. A few days after the queen had been proclaimed, there was a tumult at St. Paul's, in consequence of Dr. Bourne, one of the canons of that church, preaching against the reformation. He spoke in praise of Bishop Bonner, and was making some severe reflections on the late King Edward, when the whole audience rose in confusion. Some called out, 'Pull down the preacher;' others threw stones; and one person aimed a dagger at the doctor, which stuck in the pulpit. Had it not been for the exertions of Mr. Bradford and Mr. Rogers, two popular preachers for the reformation, he had certainly been sacrificed. These men, at the hazard of their lives, rescued him, and conveyed him in safety to a neighbouring house. This act of kindness was afterwards repaid by their imprisonment and death at the stake.
La Bruyere is strong in his commendation of Father Seraphin, an apostolical preacher. The first time (he says) that he preached before Louis XIV., he said to this monarch, 'Sire, I am not ignorant of the custom according to the prescription of which I should pay you a compliment. This I hope your majesty will dispense with; for I have been searching for a compliment in the Scriptures, and unhappily, I have not found one.'
Carracciolo, a celebrated Italian preacher, once exercised his talents before the Pope, on the luxury and licentiousness which then revailed at court. 'Fie on St. Peter! fie on St. Paul!' exclaimed he, 'who having it in their power to live as voluptuously as the Pope and the cardinals, chose rather to mortify their lives with fasts, with watchings, and labours.'
When M. le Tourneau preached the Lent sermons at St. Benoit, in Paris, in the room of Father Quesnel, who had been obliged to abscond, Louis XIV. enquired of Boileau if he knew anything of a preacher called Le Tourneau, whom everybody was running after? 'Sire,' replied the poet, 'your majesty knows that people always run after novelties; this man preaches the gospel.' The king then pressing him to give his opinion seriously, Boileau added, 'When M. le Tourneau first ascends the pulpit, his ugliness so disgusts the congregation, that they wish he would go down again; but when he begins to speak, they dread the time of his descending.'
It is a singular fact, that this very successful preacher, after he had entered into orders, thought himself so ill-qualified for the pulpit, that he actually went and renounced all the duties of the priesthood; but was afterwards, by the earnest persuasions of M. de Sacy, influeed to resume them.
Boileau's remark, as to the novelty of preaching the gospel' at that period, brings to remembrance the candid confession of a preacher at Mols, near Antwerp, who in a sermon delivered to an audience wholly of his own order, observed, 'We are worse than Judas; he sold and delivered his master; we sell him to you, but deliver him not.'
With all the strength of mind which Queen Elizabeth possessed, she had the weakness of her sex as far as related to her age and her personal attractions, 'The majesty and gravity of a sceptre,' says a contemporary of this great princess, 'could not alter that nature of a woman in her. When Bishop Rudd was appointed to preach before her, he wishing in a godly zeal, as well became him, that she should think some time of mortality, being then sixty-three years of age, he took his text fit for that purpose out of the Psalms, 90, V. 12.- "0 teach us to NUMBER our days, that we may incline our hearts unto wisdom;" which text he handled most learnedly. But when he spoke of some sacred mystical numbers, as three for the Trinity, three times three for the heavenly hierarchy, seven for the sabbath, and seven times seven for a jubilee; and, lastly, nine limes seven for the grand climacterical year (her age), she perceiving whereto it tended, began to be troubled with it. The bishop discovering all was not well, for the pulpit stood opposite her majesty, he fell to treat of some plausible numbers, as of the number 666, making Latinus, with which, he said, he could prove Pope to be Antichrist, &c. He still, however, interlarded his sermon with Scripture passages, touching the infirmities of age, as that in Ecclesiasticus, "When the grinders shall be few in number, and they wax dark that look out of the windows, &c. and the daughters of singing shall be abased;" and more to that purpose. The queen, as the manner was, opened the window: but she was so far from giving him thanks or good countenance, that she said plainly, "He might have kept his arithmetic for himself; but I see the greatest clerks are not the wisest men;" and so she went away discontented.'
Fuller has enrolled among his Worthies; Dr. Field, Dean of Gloucester, a learned divine, 'whose memory,' he says, 'dwelleth like a field which the Lord hath blessed.' He was an excellent preacher, and used often to preach before James I., especially in his progress through Hampshire in 1609. The first time his majesty heard him, he observed, in the same punning spirit with Fuller, and which was indeed characteristic of the age, 'This is a field for the Lord to dwell in.' His majesty gave him a promise of a bishopric, but never fulfilled it. When he heard of the doctor's death, his conscience appears to have smote him. He expressed his regret, and said, 'I should have done more for that man.'
Another divine, whom his majesty used to style 'the King of preachers,' was John King, who became Bishop of London in 1611; and was so great a preacher, that even after his elevation to the mitre, he never missed delivering a sermon on Sunday when his health permitted. Lord Chief justice Coke used to say of Bishop King, that 'he was the best preacher in the Star Chamber in his time.'
The great northern apostle, Bernard Gilpin, who refused a bishopric, did not confine his Christian labours to the church of Houghton, of which he was minister, but at his own expense visited the then desolate churches of Northumberland, once every year, to preach the gospel. Once when he was setting out on his annual visitation, Barnes, Bishop of Durham, summoned him to preach before him; but he excused himself, and went on his mission. On his return, he found himself suspended from all ecclesiastical employments for contempt. The bishop afterwards sent for him suddenly, and commanded him to preach; but he pleaded his suspension, which however the bishop immediately took off. Gilpin then went into the pulpit, and selected for his subject the important charge of a Christian bishop. Having exposed the corruption of the clergy, he boldly addressed himself to his lordship, who was present. 'Let not your lordship,' said he, 'say these crimes have been committed without your knowledge; for whatsoever you yourself do in person, or suffer through your connivance to be done by others, is wholly your own; therefore in the presence of God, angels, and men, I pronounce your fatherhood to be the author of all these evils; and I, and this whole congregation, will be a witness in the day of judgment, that these things have come to your cars.' It was expected that the bishop would have resented this boldness; but on the contrary, he thanked Mr. Gilpin for his faithful reproof, and suffered him to go his annual visitations in future without molestation.
About this period, the Northumbrians retained so much of the custom of our Saxon ancestors, as to decide every dispute by the sword: they even went beyond them; and not content with a duel, each contending party used to muster what adherents he could, and commenced a kind of petty war, so that a private grudge would often occasion much bloodshed.
In one of Mr. Gilpin's annual visitations, there was a quarrel of this kind at Rothbury. During the first two or three days of his preaching, the contending parties observed some decorum, and never appeared at church together. At length, however, they met. One party had been early to church, and just as Mr. Gilpin began his sermon, the other entered. They did not stand long quiet, but mutually inflamed at the sight of each other, began to clash their weapons. Awed, however, by the sacredness of the place, the tumult in some degree ceased, and Mr. Gilpin proceeded with his sermon. In a short time, the combatants again brandished their weapons, and approached each other. Mr. Gilpin then descended from the pulpit, went between the combatants, and addressing their leaders, put an end to their quarrels for the time, although he could not effect an entire reconciliation. They promised, however, that until the sermon was over, they would not disturb the congregation. He then returned to the pulpit, and devoted the rest of his time in endeavouring to make the combatants ashamed of their conduct. His behaviour and discourse affected them so much, that at his further entreaty, they agreed to abstain from all acts of hostility, while he continued in the country.
On another occasion, Mr. Gilpin going into the church, observed a glove hanging up, which he was told was a challenge to anyone that should take it down. He ordered the sexton to give it to him, but he refused. Mr. Gilpin then reached it himself, and put it in his breast. When the congregation was assembled, he went into the pulpit, and in the course of his sermon severely censured these inhuman challenges. 'I hear,' said he, 'that one among you has hung up a glove, even in this sacred place, threatening to fight anyone who should take it down. See, I have done this,' holding up the glove to the congregation, and again inveighing in strong terms against such unchristian practices.
About the year 1644, a party of the Parliament horse came to the village of Laugharn, and enquired whether its popish vicar, Mr. Thomas, was still there, and whether he continued reading the liturgy and praying for the queen? One of them added, that he would go to church next Sunday, and if Mr. Thomas dared to pray for that, he would certainly pistol him. Information of the threat having been conveyed to Mr. Thomas, his friends earnestly pressed him to absent himself; but thinking this would be a cowardly departure from his duty, he resolutely refused. He had no sooner began the service, than the soldiers came, and placed themselves in the pew next to him; and when he prayed for the queen, one of them snatched the book out of his hand, and threw it at his head, saying, 'What do you mean by praying for her?' The preacher bore the insult with so much Christian meekness and composure, that the soldier who had been guilty of it immediately slunk away ashamed and confused. Mr. Thomas continued the service, and delivered an admirable sermon with great spirit and animation. On his return home, he found the soldiers waiting to beg his pardon, and desire his prayers to God in their behalf. The parliamentary committee soon after deprived this resolute pastor of his living: but on the restoration of Charles II. he was rewarded for his loyalty by the bishopric of Worcester, which he enjoyed till the revolution; when refusing to take the oath of allegiance to King William, he would have been turned out of his see, had not death intervened to spare him this indignity. His objections to the oath were conscientious, and not to be overcome. In a letter to a friend, he says, 'If my heart do not deceive me, and God's grace do not fall me, I think I could suffer at a stake, rather than take this oath.'
A letter from Archbishop Sancroft to this prelate, written in 1683, complains of a custom which was at that time, and for many years after, continued, of preaching the serilion in the body of the cathedral, while the prayers were read in the choir. The origin of the custom was, that as there used to be no sermon in the parish churches, the several parishioners might, after their own prayers, attend the sermon of some eminent preacher in the cathedral.
The celebrated Dr. Barrow was not only remarkable for the excellence, but for the extraordinary length of his sermons. In preaching the Spital sermon before the Lord Mayor and the corporation, he spent three hours and a half. Being asked, after he came down from the pulpit, if he was not tired, he replied, 'Yes, indeed, I begin to be weary in standing so long.'
He was once requested by the Bishop of Rochester, then Dean of Westminster, to preach at the abbey, and requested not to make a long sermon, for that the auditory loved short ones, and were accustomed to them. He replied, 'My lord, I will show you my sermon,' and immediately gave it to the bishop. The text was, 'He that uttereth a slander is a liar;' and the sermon was divided into two parts, one treating on slander and the other on lies. The dean desired him to preach the first part of it only; and to this he consented, though not without some reluctance. This half sermon took him an hour and a half in the delivery.
At another time, Dr. Barrow preached in the abbey on a holiday. It was then customary for the servants of the church, upon all holidays, except Sundays, betwixt the sermon and evening prayer, to show the tombs and monuments in the abbey to such strangers or other persons as would purchase the privilege for twopence. Perceiving Dr. Barrow in the pulpit after the hour was past, and fearing to lose time in hearing, which they thought they could more profitably employ in receiving, the servants of the church became impatient, and most indecently caused the organ to be struck up against him, nor would they cease playing until the doctor was silenced, which was not until he despaired of being heard, or of exhausting the organ blower.
It is, scarcely necessary to observe that the length of Dr. Barrow's sermons was their only fault. 'In him,' says that excellent critic, Dr. Blair, 'one admires more the prodigious fecundity of his invention, and the uncommon strength of his conceptions, than the felicity of his execution, or his talent in composition. We see a genius far surpassing the common, peculiar indeed almost to himself; but that genius often shooting wild, and unchastised by any discipline or study of eloquence. On every subject he multiplies words with an overflowing copiousness, but it is always a torrent of strong ideas and significant expressions which he pours forth.' Of the truth of the last remark, the following definition of wit in a sermon against foolish talking and jesting, will furnish a pleasing specimen. 'Wit,' says he, 'is a thing so versatile and multiform appearing in so many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs, so variously apprehended by several eyes and judgments, that it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notion thereof, than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the figure of the fleeting air. Sometimes it lieth in pat allusions to a known story, or in seasonable application of a trivial saying, or in forging an opposite tale; sometimes it playeth on words and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of their sense, or the affinity of their sound; sometimes it is wrapped up in a dress of humorous expression; sometimes it lurketh under an odd similitude; sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd intimation, in cunningly diverting, or smartly retorting an objection: sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, or in a lusty hyperbole; in a startling metaphor, in a plausible reconciling of contradiction, or in acute nonsense; sometimes a scenical representation of persons or things, a counterfeit speech, a inimical look or gesture, passeth for it; sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous bluntness, gives it being; sometimes it riseth only from a lucky hitting upon what is strange; sometimes from a crafty wresting obvious matter to the purpose. Often it consisteth in one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how. Its ways are unaccountable and inexplicable, being answerable to the numberless rovings of fancy and windings of language.
It raiseth admiration, as signifying a nimble sagacity of apprehension, a special felicity of invention, a vivacity of Spirit, and reach of wit more than vulgar; it seemeth to argue a rare quickness of parts, that one can fetch in remote conceits applicable; a notable skill that can dexterously accommodate them to the purpose before him, together with a lively briskness of humour not apt to damp those sportful flashes of imagination. It also procureth delight by gratifying curiosity with its rareness, or semblance of difficulty; by diverting the mind from its 'road of serious thoughts;' by instilling gaiety and airiness of spirits; by provoking to such dispositions of gaiety in way of emulation or complaisance; and by seasoning matters otherwise distasteful or insipid with an unusual and thence grateful savour.
The noted Daniel Burgess, the Nonconformist minister, was by no means of Puritan strictness, for he was the most facetious person of his day, and carried his wit so far as to retail it from the pulpit with more levity than decency. Speaking of Job's 'robe of righteousness,' he once said, 'If any of you would have a suit for a twelvemonth, let him repair to Monmouth-street; if for his lifetime, let him apply to the Court of Chancery; but if for all eternity, let him put on the robe of righteousness.' The sermons of Burgess were artfully adapted to the prejudices as well as the opinions of his hearers: wit and Whigism went hand in hand with Scripture. He was strongly attached to the House of Brunswick, and would not uphold the Pretender's cause from the pulpit. He once preached a sermon, about that time, on the reason why the Jews were called Jacobites, in which he said, 'God ever hated Jacobites, and therefore Jacob's sons were not so called, but Israelites.' The preacher's love of a joke here triumphed over the truth and his knowledge of chronology.
Dr. Balguy, a preacher of great celebrity, after having delivered an excellent sermon at Winchester Cathedral, the text of which was, 'All wisdom is sorrow,' received the following extempore, but elegant compliment from Dr. Watson, then at Winchester School:
If what you advance, dear doctor, be true,
That wisdom is SORROW, how WRETCHED are you.
Precept and Practice.
The Rev. Mr. Kelly, curate of the English chapel in the town of Ayr, once preached an excellent sermon from the beautiful parable of the man who fell among thieves. He was particularly severe upon the conduct of the priest who saw him, and ministered not unto him, but passed on the opposite side, and in an animated and pathetic flow of eloquence he exclaimed, 'What! not even the servant of the Almighty! he whose tongue was engaged in the word of charity, whose bosom was appointed the seat of brotherly love, whose heart the emblem of pity, whose soul the frozen serpent of disease! did he refuse to stretch forth his hand, and to take the mantle from his shoulders to cover the nakedness of woe? if he refused, if the shepherd himself went astray, was it to be wondered that the flock followed?' Such were the precepts of the preacher, and he 'practised what he preached.' The next day, when the river was much increased, a boy in a small boat was swept overboard by the force of the current. A great concourse of people were assembled, but none of them attempted to save the boy; when Mr. Kelly, who was dressed in his canonicals, threw himself from his chamber window into the current, and at the hazard of his own life saved that of the boy.
Mr. Kelly became afterwards tutor to the present Marquess of Huntley, by whose interest he was made Vicar of Ardleigh, near Colchester, and then Rector of Copford, in the same neighbourhood) where he died in 1809.
Dr. Harris, the minister of Hanwell, during the civil wars, frequently had military officers quartered at his house. A party of them being unmindful of the respect due to the minister of religion, indulged themselves swearing. The doctor noticed this, and on the following Sunday preached from these words: 'Above all things, my brethren, swear not.' This so enraged the soldiers, who judged the sermon was intended for them, that they swore they would shoot him if he preached on the subject again. He was not however to be intimidated; and on the following Sunday he not only preached from the same text, but inveighed in still stronger terms against the vice of swearing. As he was preaching, a soldier levelled his carbine at him, but he went on to the conclusion of his sermon without the slightest fear or hesitation.
Doctor, afterwards Bishop Kennet, preached the funeral sermon of the first Duke of Devonshire, September 5, 1707. The sentiments of this sermon gave great offence, and made some persons say that 'the preacher had built a bridge for heaven for men of wit and parts, but excluded the duller part of mankind from any chance of passing it.' This charge was grounded on the following passage. Speaking of a late repentance, he says: 'This rarely happens but in men of distinguished sense and judgment. Ordinary abilities may be altogether sunk by a long vicious course of life; the duller flame is easily extinguished. The meaner sinful wretches are commonly given up to a reprobate mind, and die as stupidly as they lived, while the nobler and brighter parts have an advantage of understanding the worth of their souls before they resign them. If they are allowed the benefit of sickness, they commonly awake out of their dream of sin, and reflect, and look upward. They acknowledge an infinite being; they feel their own immortal part; they recollect and relish the holy Scriptures; they call for the elders of the church; they think what to answer at a judgment seat. Not that God is a respecter of persons; but the difference is in men; and the more intelligent nature is the more susceptible of the Divine grace.' Whatever offence this sermon might give to others, it did not displease the succeeding Duke of Devonshire, who recommended the doctor to the Deanery of Peterborough, which he obtained in 1707.
Sea Captain made Bishop.
Dr. Lyons, who was preferred to the Bishopric of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross, during the latter part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, held the benefice for twenty years, but never preached but once, which was on the death of the queen. On that melancholy occasion he thought it his duty to pay the last honours to his royal mistress, and accordingly ascended the pulpit in Christ Church, Cork, where he delivered a good discourse on the uncertainty of life, and the great and amiable qualities of her majesty. He concluded in the following warm but whimsical manner:-Let those who feel this loss deplore with me on this melancholy occasion: but if there be any that hear me who have secretly wished for this event (as perhaps there may be) they have now got their wish, and may it do them all the good they deserve.'
The bishop's aversion to preaching is supposed to have arisen from his not having been intended for the church. His promotion is very singular; he was captain of a ship, and distinguished himself so gallantly in several actions with the Spaniards, that, on being introduced to the queen, she told him that he should have the first vacancy that offered. The honest captain, who understood the queen literally, soon after hearing of a vacancy in the See of Cork, immediately set out for court, and claimed the royal promise. The queen, astonished at the request, for a time remonstrated against the impropriety of it, and said that she could never think it a suitable office for him. It was, however, in vain; he pleaded the royal promise, and relied on it. The queen then said she would take a few days to consider of the matter, when, examining into his character, and finding that he was a sober, moral man, as well as an intrepid commander, she sent for him, and gave him the bishopric, saying she 'hoped he would take as good care of the church as he had done of the state.'
The charitable society for the relief of the widows and children of clergymen, since known by the name of the 'Corporation for the Sons of the Clergy,' was first commenced in the year 1555. The first sermon was reached at St. Paul's on the 5th of November that year by the Rev. George Hall, afterwards Bishop of Chester, from the following text, 'The rod of Aaron budded, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.' The preacher enforced the necessity and usefulness of a settled ministry, but his sermon breathed great moderation, considering the rancorous feuds then existing in the church, These he noticed. 'Let these ill-invented terms,' said he, 'whereby we have been distinguished from each other, be swallowed up in that name, which will lead us hand in hand to heaven - the name of Christians. If my stomach, or any of yours, rise against the name of brotherly communion, which may consist with our several principles retained, not differing in substantials, God take down that stomach, and make us see how much we are concerned to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Why should some, in the height of their zeal for the liturgy, suppose there can be no service of God but where that is used? Why should others, again think their piety concerned and trespassed upon, if I prefer, and think fit to use a set form? There must be abatements and allowances of each other; a coming down of our punctilios, or we shall never give up a good account to God.'
The celebrated Dr. South, one of the chaplains of Charles the Second, preaching on a certain day before court, which was composed of the most profligate and dissipated men in the nation, perceived in the middle of his discourse that sleep had gradually taken possession of his hearers. The doctor immediately stopped short, and changing his tone of voice, called out to Lord Lauderdale three times. His lordship standing up, 'My lord,' said South, with great composure, 'I am sorry to interrupt your repose, but I must beg of you that you will not snore quite so loud lest you awaken his majesty.'
On another occasion, when preaching before the king, he chose for his text these words: 'The lot is cast into the lap, but the disposing of it is of the Lord.' In this sermon he introduced three remarkable instances of unexpected advancement, those of Agathocles, Massaniello, and Oliver Cromwell. Of the latter he said, 'And who, that beheld such a bankrupt, beggarly fellow as Cromwell, first entering the parliament house with a threadbare torn cloak, greasy hat (perhaps neither of them paid for), could have suspected that, in the space of so few years, he should, by the murder of one king, and the banishment of another, ascend the throne!' At this the king is said to have fallen into a violent fit of laughter; and turning to Dr. South's patron, Mr. Lawrence Hyde, now created Lord Rochester, said, 'Odds fish Lory, your chaplain must be a bishop; therefore put me in mind of him at the next death.'
Bishop Kennet says of South, that 'he laboured very much to compose his sermons; and in the pulpit worked up his body when he came to a piece of wit, or any notable saying.'
His wit was certainly the least of his recommendations; he indulged in it to an excess which often violated the sanctity of the pulpit. When Sherlock accused him of employing wit in a controversy on the Trinity, South made but a sorry reply: 'Had it pleased God to have made you a wit, what would you have done?'
When Fenelon was almoner to the king, and attending Louis XIV. to a sermon preached by a Capuchin, he fell asleep. The Capuchin perceived it, and breaking off his discourse, said, 'Awake that sleeping Abbe, who comes here only to pay his court to the king;' a reproof which Fenelon often related with pleasure after he became Archbishop of Cambray.
At another time the king was astonished to find only Fenelon and the priest at the chapel, instead of a numerous congregation as usual. 'What is the reason of all this?' said the king. 'Why,' replied Fenelon, 'I caused it to be given out, sire, that your majesty did not attend chapel to-day, that you might know who came to worship God, and who to flatter the king.'
When Louis appointed Fenelon chief of the missionaries, to convert the Protestants of Sausonge, his majesty insisted that a regiment of guards should accompany him. 'The ministers of religion,' said Fenelon, 'are the evangelists of peace; and the military might frighten all, but would not persuade a single individual. It was by the force of their morals that the apostles converted mankind; permit us, then, sire, to follow their example.' 'But, alas!' said the king, 'have you nothing to fear from the fanaticism of those heretics?' 'I am no stranger to it, sire, but a priest must not let fears like these enter into his calculation; and I take the liberty of mentioning again to you, sire, that if we would draw to us our diffident brethren, we must go to them like true apostles. For my own part, I had rather become their victim, than see one of their ministers exposed to the vexations, the insult, and the almost necessary violence of our military men.'
Not long before he died, Fenelon ascended the pulpit of his cathedral, and excommunicated in person such of his own works as the Pope had interdicted. He placed on the altar a piece of sacred plate, on which were embossed some books, with the titles of the alleged heretical ones struck with the fire of heaven.
Mr. Whately, who was Vicar of Banbury, in Oxfordshire, and died in 1639, had such great reputation as a preacher, that persons of different persuasions went from Oxford and other distant places to hear him. As he always appeared to speak from his heart, his sermons were felt as well as heard, and were often attended with suitable effects. A neighbouring clergyman was once so deeply affected with a sermon preached by Mr. Whately, on bounty to the poor, that he went to him as he came out of the pulpit, and asked what proportion of his income he ought in conscience to give. Whately advised him not to be sparing, and intimated that when he was far from being in easy circumstances, he resolved himself to set aside a larger sum than ever for charitable uses; the consequence of which was, that God blessed and increased the slender heap from which it was taken, so that he was then able to lend ten times as much as he had formerly been forced to borrow, This good man's death was much lamented by his parishioners, and the following lines are part of his epitaph:
It's William Whately that here lies,
Who swam to's tomb in's people's eyes.'
When Dr. Nicholls waited upon Lord Chancellor Hardwicke with the first volume of Sherlock, the late Bishop of London's sermons, in November, 1753, his lordship asked him whether there was not a sermon on John xx. 30, 31. Dr. N- having replied in the affirmative, the Lord Chancellor desired him to turn to the conclusion, and repeated. 'Verbatim, the animated contrast between the Christian and Mahomedan religion, beginning, 'Go to your natural religion,' &c., to the end.
The same sermon had indeed been published singly, but not less than thirty years before and the chief circumstance which serves to account for Lord Hardwicke's vivid recollection of it (notwithstanding its great excellence), was the situation which Sherlock held as Master of the Temple from 1704 until 1753. In Sherlock's farewell letter to the treasurer and masters of the Bench, he declares that he esteemed 'his relation to the two societies of the Temple to have been the greatest happiness of his life, as it introduced him to some of the greatest men of the age, and afforded him the opportunities of living and conversing with gentlemen of a liberal education, and of great learning and experience.' It seems extremely probable that the sermon of which Lord Hardwicke took such notice had been heard by him when first delivered by Sherlock.
Dr. Blair, in his 'Lectures on Rhetoric,' points out the very passage which Lord Hardwicke so much admired, as an instance of personification carried as far as prose, even in its highest elevation, will admit. After transcribing it, this elegant critic remarks, 'this is more than elegant, it is truly sublime.'
When Sherlock was promoted to the mastership of the Temple, he was only In the twenty-sixth year of his age. So early an elevation gave some offence; yet it took place at a time when preferments were not lightly bestowed; and Mr. Sherlock in a short time exhibited such talents as removed all prejudices against him. He exerted the utmost diligence in the cultivation of his talents, and the display of his learning and eloquence: and in the course of a few years became one of the most celebrated preachers of his time. Notwithstanding some degree of natural impediment (what is called a thickness of speech), he delivered his sermons with such propriety and energy as to rivet the attention of his hearers and command their admiration.
Sterne being in company with three or four clergymen, was relating a circumstance which happened to him at York. After preaching at the cathedral, an old woman, whom he observed sitting on the pulpit stairs, stopped him as he came down, and begged to know where she should have the honour of hearing him preach the next Sunday. Sterne having mentioned the place where he was to exhibit, found her situated in the same manner on that day, when she put the same question to him as before. The following Sunday he was to preach four miles out of York, which he told her; and, to his great surprise, he found her there too, and that the same question was put to him as he descended from the pulpit. 'On which,' added he, 'I took for my text these words, expecting to find my old woman as before, "I will grant the request of this poor widow, lest by her often coming she weary me." One of the company immediately replied, "Why, Sterne, you omitted the most applicable part of the passage, which is, "Though I neither fear God nor regard man."'
When Mrs. F. was in England, she attended York races, where she met with Sterne. He rode up to the side of the coach, and accosted her with 'Well, madam, on which horse do you bet?' 'Sir,' she replied, 'if you can tell me which is the worst horse, I will bet upon that.' 'But why, madam,' asked Sterne, 'do you make so strange a choice?' 'Because,' said the lady, 'you know the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.' Sterne was so much pleased with this reply, that he went home and wrote from that text his much-admired sermon, entitled, 'Time and Chance.'
Few preachers possessed eloquence so well adapted to all auditory, as the Rev. George Whitfield, the able coadjutor of Mr. Wesley in the foundation of Methodism. His metaphors were drawn from sources easily understood by his hearers, and frequently from the circumstances of the moment. The application was generally happy, and sometimes rose to the true sublime; for he was a man of a warm imagination, and by no means devoid of taste.
When Mr. Whitfield first went to Scotland, he was received in Edinburgh with a kind of frantic joy by a large body of the citizens. It so happened, that the day after his arrival, an unhappy man who had forfeited his life to the offended laws of his country, was to be executed. Mr. Whitfield mingled in the crowd that was collected on the occasion, and seemed highly pleased with the solemnity and decorum with which so awful a scene was conducted. His appearance however drew the eyes of all around him, and raised a variety of opinions as to the motives which led him to join in the crowd. The next day being Sunday, he preached to a very large congregation in a field near the city. In the course of his sermon, he adverted to the execution which had taken place on the preceding day. 'I know,' said he, 'that many of you will find it difficult to reconcile my appearance yesterday with my character. Many of you, I know, will say, that my moments would have been better employed in praying for the unhappy man, than in attending him to the fatal tree; and that, perhaps, curiosity was the only cause that converted me into a spectator on that occasion; but those who ascribe that uncharitable motive to me, are under a mistake. I went as an observer of human nature, and to see the effect that such all example would have on those who witnessed it. I watched the conduct of almost every one present on that awful occasion, and I was highly pleased with their demeanour, which has given me a very favourable opinion of the Scottish nation. Your sympathy was visible on your countenances, and reflected the goodness of your hearts, particularly when the moment arrived that your unhappy fellow creature was to close his eyes on this world for ever; then you all, as if moved by one impulse, turned your heads aside, and wept. Those tears were precious, and will be held in remembrance. How different was it when the Saviour of mankind was extended on the cross! The Jews, instead of sympathizing in his sorrows, triumphed in them. They reviled him with bitter expressions, with words even more bitter than the gall and vinegar which they handed him to drink. Not one of all that witnessed his pains turned his head aside, even in the last pang. Yes, my friends, there was one: that glorious luminary (pointing to the sun) veiled his brightness, and travelled on his course in tenfold night.'
A Popular Preacher.
A reverend doctor in the metropolis was what is usually denominated a popular preacher. His reputation, however, had not been acquired by his drawing largely on his own stores of knowledge and eloquence, but by the skill with which he appropriated the thoughts and language of the great divines who had gone before him. Those who compose a fashionable audience, are not deeply read in pulpit lore, and, accordingly, with such hearers, he passed for a wonder of erudition and pathos. It did nevertheless happen, that the doctor was once detected in his larcenies. One Sunday, as he was beginning to delight the belles of his quarter of the metropolis, a grave old gentleman seated himself close to the pulpit, and listened with profound attention. The doctor had scarcely finished his third sentence, before the old gentleman muttered loud enough to be heard by those near, 'That's Sherlock!' The doctor frowned, but went on. He had not proceeded much, farther, when his tormenting interrupter broke out with, 'That's Tillotson!' The doctor bit his lips and paused, but again thought it better to pursue the thread of his discourse. A third exclamation of 'That's Blair!' was, however, too much, and completely deprived him of his patience. Leaning over the pulpit, 'Fellow,' he cried, 'if you do not hold your tongue, you shall be turned out.' Without altering a muscle of his countenance, the grave old gentleman lifted up his head, and looking the doctor in the face, retorted, 'That's his own!'
A Reproof to Sleepers.
It is related of John Lassenius, the chaplain to the Danish Court, who died at Copenhagen in 1692, that having for a long time perceived to his vexation, that during his sermon, the greatest part of his congregation fell asleep, he suddenly stopped, pulled a shuttlecock from his pocket, and began to play with it in the pulpit. A circumstance so extraordinary, naturally attracted the attention of that part of the congregation who were still awake. They jogged those who were sleeping, and in a short time everybody was lively, and looking to the pulpit with the greatest astonishment. This was just what Lassenius wished; for he immediately began a most severe castigatory discourse, saying, 'When I announce to you sacred and important truths, you are not ashamed to go to sleep: but when I play the fool, you are all eye and all ear.'
Another curious circumstance is recorded of the pulpit displays of Lassenius. He used always to stop in the middle of his sermon, to take a glass of wine, or some other cordial, in the presence of the congregation! An inviting example to preachers of long sermons.
The late Sir Hugh Dalrymple, a worthy Scotch baronet, on once paying a visit to the Orkneys, was much struck with the eloquence of a poor assistant preacher, whom he had accidentally the pleasure of hearing; and wrote to the late Sir Lawrence Dundas (father of the first Lord Dundas), in whose gift was the church where the curate officiated, requesting the reversion of it for the assistant. The letter, which blends humour and benevolence together in a very pleasing manner, was in the following terms:
'Having spent a long time in pursuit of pleasure and health, I am now retired with the gout; so joining with Solomon, that "all is vanity and vexation of spirit," I go to church, and say my prayers, assure you, that most of us religious people reap some little satisfaction in hoping that you wealthy voluptuaries have a fair chance of being lost to all eternity, and that Dives shall call on Lazarus for a drop of water; which he seldom tasted, when he had the Twelve Apostles, in his cellar.
'Now, sir, that this doctrine is laid down, I wish to give you a loop-hole to escape through. Going to church last Sunday, I saw an unknown man in the pulpit; and rising up to prayers, I began, as others do on the like occasion, to look round the church to see if there were any pretty girls in it, when my attention was roused by the foreign accent of the parson. I gave him my ear, and had my devotion awakened by the most pathetic prayer I ever heard. This made me more and more attentive to the sermon. A finer discourse never came from the lips of man. I returned in the afternoon, and heard the same preacher exceed his morning work, by the finest chain of reasoning, conveyed by the most elegant expressions. I immediately thought on what Felix said to Paul, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." I sent to ask the Man of God to honour my roof, and dine with me. I inquired of him his country, and what not. I even asked him if his sermons were of his own composition, which he affirmed they were. I assure you, I believed they were; never man had spoken or written better.
'"My name is Dishington," said he, 'I am assistant to a mad minister in the Orkneys, who enjoys a rich benefice of fifty pounds a year, of which I have twenty-eight pounds yearly, for preaching to and instructing twelve hundred people, who live in separate islands, of which I pay one pound five shillings to the boatmen who transport me from the one island to the other, by turns. I should be happy if I could continue in this terrestrial Paradise, but we have a great lord, who has a great many little people about him, soliciting a great many little things, that he can do, and that he cannot do; and if my minister was to die, his succession is too great a prize, not to raise up too many rivals to baulk the hopes of my preferment."
'I asked him if he possessed any other wealth? "Yes," said be, "I married the prettiest girl in the island, and she has blessed me with three children; and as we are both young, we may expect more. Besides," said he, "I am so beloved in the parish, that I have all my peats led carriage free." This is my story; now to the prayer of the petition.
'I never before envied you your possession of the Orkneys, which I now do, to provide for this innocent, eloquent apostle. The sun has refused your barren isles his kindly influence, do not deprive them of so pleasant a preacher; let not so great a treasure be lost to that inhospitable country; for I assure you, were the Archbishop of Canterbury to hear him preach, he could do no less than make him all archdeacon. The man has but one weakness, that of preferring the Orkney's to all the earth. This way, and no other, you have a chance for salvation; do this man good, and he will pray for you. This will be a better purchase than your Irish estate, or the Orkneys, and I think will help me forward too, since I am the man who told you of the man so worthy, so eloquent, so deserving, and so pious, and whose prayers may do so much good. Till I hear from you on this head, I am yours in all meekness, love, and benevolence,
A Large Parish.
Dr. Horneck, who was preacher at the Savoy from 1671 to 1696, enjoyed so much popularity for the eloquent and pathetic style of his sermons, that the church used to be crowded by auditors from the most remote parts, which occasioned Dean Freeman to say, that Dr. H.'s parish was much the largest in town, for it reached from Whitehall to Whitechapel. It is singular notwithstanding, that when he was recommended to the living of Covent Garden, the inhabitants of that parish were so averse to him, that Tillotson says, 'that if the Earl of Bedford had liked him (which it would seem he did not) he could not have thought it fit to bestow the living on him, knowing how necessary it is to the good effect of a man's ministry, that he do not lie under any great prejudice with the people.' Dr. Birch remarks, that the grounds of the great aversion in the parish of Covent Garden to Dr. H. are not easy to be assigned at this distance of time. Bishop Kidder, his biographer, sets him forth as one of the brightest examples that ever adorned the pastoral office. 'He had,' he says, 'the zeal, the spirit, the courage of John the Baptist, and durst reprove a great man; perhaps that man lived not, that was more conscientious in this matter.'
Trope for Trope.
A clergyman preaching in the neighbourhood of Wapping, observing that most part of his audience were in the sea-faring way, very naturally embellished his discourse with several nautical tropes and figures. Amongst other things, he advised them to be ever on the watch, so that, on whatsoever tack the evil one should bear down upon them, he might be crippled in action. 'Aye, master,' muttered a jolly son of Neptune, 'but let me tell you, that will depend upon your having the weather gauge of him.' A just, though whimsical remark.
The French doctor of divinity, Oliver Maillard, who died in the year 1502, was one of the best scholars and ablest preachers of his day. He reproved the vices of the times with uncommon boldness, without any respect of persons; and depicted the sinners he had in view with such a masterly hand, that the likeness was immediately known. As his portraits were drawn from real life, his sermons may be compared to a picture gallery, in which the reigning vices of that age are exhibited in the most faithful colours. There never was a preacher, perhaps, that waged a more successful war with hypocrites and profligates, with which all the departments of the church and state were at that time filled. He spoke with the same felicity that he wrote, and was never known to sully his tongue or his pen with flattery, or to disguise the truth, so that he was called 'the scourge of sinners.'
This zealous divine one day preaching before the parliament at Thoulouse, drew so finished a portrait of a corrupt judge, and his application to many of the members of that body was so pointed, that they deliberated for sometime whether it would not be proper to arrest him. The result of their deliberations was transmitted to the archbishop; who, in order to soothe the resentment of those who felt themselves hurt, commanded Maillard that he should not preach for two years. The good man received this mandate in all the spirit of humility. He waited on the offended magistrates, and stated his duty as a preacher of the divine word, in such impressive language, that they threw themselves alternately on his bosom, confessed their crimes, and became true penitents.
Maillard even took liberties with the king himself, when he happened to preach before his majesty. When one of the courtiers told him, that the king had threatened to throw him into the river, 'the king,' replied he, 'is my master; but you may tell him, that I shall get sooner to heaven by water, than he will with his post-horses.' The king (Louis XI). happened to be the first who established posting on the roads of France. When this bon-mot was repeated to him, he wisely resolved to allow Maillard to preach what he would. The saying by the way, appears to have been a current jest among the wits of the time; for it is to be found in Badius's 'Navis Stultifera.'
In the Latin edition of 'Maillard's Sermons,' published at Paris, the words, 'hem, hem,' are written in the margin, to mark the places where, according to the custom of those days, the preacher was at liberty to stop to cough.
Reading the Athanasian Creed.
The Rev. Mr. Wright, a curate in the West of England, refused to read the Athanasian Creed, though repeatedly desired to do so by his parishioners. They complained to the Bishop of the diocese, who ordered it to be read. The Creed is appointed to be said or sung; and the curate accordingly on the following Sunday thus addressed his congregation. "Next follows St. Athanasius's Creed, either to be said or sung, and with God's leave I'll sing it. Now, clerk, mind what you are about." They immediately commenced singing it in a fox-hunting tune, which having previously practised, was correctly performed.
The parishioners again met, and informed their curate that they would dispense with the Creed in future.
Dr. Williamson, vicar of Moulton in Lincolnshire, had a violent quarrel with one of his parishioners of the name of Hardy, who showed considerable resentment. On the succeeding Sunday the doctor preached from the following text, which he pronounced with much. emphasis, and with a significant look at Mr. Hardy, who was present: "There is no fool like the fool HARDY."
Mr. Mossman, a Scotch minister, preaching on the sin of taking God's name in vain, made this singular. distinction: "0! sirs, this is a very great sin; for my own part, I would rather steal all the horned cattle in the parish, than once take God's name in vain."
When the well-known Dr. Barth preached for the first time in his native city of Leipsic, he disdained the usual precaution of having his sermon placed in the Bible before him, to refer to in case of need. A violent thunderstorm suddenly arising, just as he was in the middle of his discourse, and a tremendous peal of thunder causing him to lose the thread of his argument, with great composure and dignity he shut the Bible, saying, with great emphasis, 'When God speaks, man must hold his peace.' He then descended from the pulpit, while the whole congregation looked on him with admiration and wonder.
Truth will Out.
Aubrey says, that Dr. Babington, who was chaplain to the celebrated Robert, Earl of Leicester, being employed by that nobleman to preach the sermon at the funeral of his first wife, whose death it is now almost historically certain was foully accomplished by the earl's desire, in order to promote his ambitious hopes of an alliance with Queen Elizabeth, the honest parson, tripped once or twice in his speech, by recommending to their memories that virtuous lady so pitifully-murdered, instead of saying so pitifully slain.'
Sermon by Sir Joshua Reynolds.
A clergyman, a friend of Mr. Opie's, declared to him, that he once delivered one of Sir Joshua's discourses from the pulpit, as a sermon, with no other alteration, but in such words as made it applicable to morals, instead of the fine arts. 'Which,' says the relater, 'is a proof of the depth of his reasoning, and of its foundation being formed on the principles of general nature.'
The celebrated Dean of Killala, at the commencement of his ministry became so popular, that on every Sunday that he preached at St. Peter's Church, the collection for the poor rose to four or five times its usual amount. Before the expiration of his first year, he was wholly reserved for the distinguished and difficult task of preaching charity sermons; and in November, 1788, the governors of the general daily schools of several parishes entered into a resolution, 'That, from the effects which the discourses of the Rev. Walter Blake Kirwan from the pulpit have had, his officiating in the metropolis was considered a peculiar national advantage; and that vestries should be called to consider the most effectual method to secure to the city an instrument under Providence, of so much public benefit.'
Of the extraordinary effects of his eloquence, some interesting particulars will be found in 'Anecdotes of Eloquence.'
Mr. Grattan pronounced a beautiful panegyric on this great preacher in the Irish parliament, in 1792. Speaking of the neglect of Dr. Kirwan, he said, 'This man preferred our country, and our religion, and brought to both genius superior to what he found in either. He called forth the latent virtues of the human heart, and taught men to discover in themselves a mine of charity, of which the proprietors had been unconscious. In feeding the lamp of charity, he has almost exhausted the lamp of life. He came to interrupt the repose of the pulpit, and shakes one world with the thunder of the other. The preacher's desk becomes the throne of light. Round him a train, not such as crouch and swagger at the levees of princes; not such as attend the procession of the viceroy, horse and foot, and dragoons; but that wherewith a great genius peoples his own state-charity in ecstasy, and vice in humiliation;- vanity, arrogance, and saucy empty pride, appalled by the rebuke of the preacher, and cheated for a moment of their native improbity and insolence.'
The ardour of Dean Kirwan was not abated by promotion, nor his meekness corrupted by admiration. In one of his sermons for the schools of St. Peter's, he complains of his insufficiency. 'I tell you,' says he, 'that the utmost effort of the ministry can do comparatively nothing. To be roused to the height of mercy, you should have personal experience of what passes around you; you will then carry the impression to your graves. Sermons and preachers are rapidly forgotten. One single morning devoted to explore the recesses of misery in this metropolis, would preach to you through life; would stamp you merciful for ever. While I press you to an increase of your institution, full well do you know the necessity for it. But, alas! I want the power of determining you, of melting you down to the extent of my wishes. God has not given it to me; if he had be assured I would use it; I would encircle you with my little clients, hang them on your garments, teach their fatherless arms to entwine about your knees, their innocent eyes to fasten upon yours, their untainted lips to cry, "Mercy, for we perish!" Do you think you could resist?'
In the same sermon, congratulating his auditory on their benevolence to the poor during the rigours of the preceding winter, when upwards of seven hundred pounds were collected from door to door, he has the following beautiful passages:
'No pressing entreaty was used with you; no obstinate, or as I fear you now find it, presuming length of solicitation. The claims of your petitioners were written on the face of nature, on the hoary mantle of the earth, and conveyed in the bitterness of the breeze In looking through your casements, you naturally reflected on the special comforts and blessing you enjoyed, and raised your eyes to heaven in fervent thanksgiving, while your imaginations tenderly depicted the horrible reverse of cold, nakedness, and famine. The case was clear, and you were men. The delegates of misery had but to come, and see, and conquer. You gave cheerfully, and gave greatly. And is it from such hearts I can dread a repulse on this occasion? Is it only in the temple of the eternal God, where he himself conjures you through the lips of his minister, that I can suppose you to exist with impoverished feelings and inferior souls? But I know your hearts are with me, and though the wretched prudence of the world whispers you to beware of entailing on yourselves an additional burden, spurn the inglorious thought, and let the godlike cause of humanity triumph.'
The neglect of Kirwan, of which Mr. Grattan complained, was repaired, not only by his appointment to the deanery of Killala, but by a pension of £300, which the king on his death conferred on his widow, with reversion to two daughters.
When Dr. Beadon was rector of Eltham, in Kent, the text he one day undertook to preach from was, 'Who art thou?' After reading the text, he made (as was his custom) a pause, for the congregation to reflect upon the words when a gentleman, in a military dress, who at the instant was marching very sedately up the middle aisle of the church, supposing it a question addressed to him, to the surprise of all present, replied, 'I am, sir, an officer of the sixteenth regiment of foot, on a recruiting party here: and having brought my wife and family with me, I wish to be acquainted with the neighbouring clergy and gentry.' This so deranged the divine, and astonished the congregation, that though they attempted to listen with decorum, the discourse was not proceeded in without considerable difficulty.
After Dr. Kennicott had taken orders, he went to officiate in his clerical capacity at Totness, his native town, where his father filled the humble situation of parish clerk. When his father, as clerk, proceeded to place the surplice on his shoulders, a struggle ensued between the modesty of the son, and the honest pride of the parent, who insisted on paying that respect to his son which he had been accustomed to show to other clergymen. Nor was this the only affecting circumstance which occurred on this occasion. His mother had often declared, she should never be able to support the joy of hearing her son preach, and she was now actually so overcome, as to be taken out in a state of temporary insensibility.
The celebrated Dr. Blair had been for twenty-three years a preacher in the Scottish metropolis, before he could be induced to favour the world with a volume of the sermons which had so long furnished instruction and delight to his own congregation. He transmitted the manuscript of his first volume to Mr. Strahan, the king's printer, who, after keeping it for some time, wrote a letter to him, discouraging the publication. Mr. Strahan, however, had sent one of the sermons to Dr. Johnson for his opinion; and after his unfavourable letter to Dr. Blair had been sent off, he received from Johnson, on Christmaseve, 1776, a note, in which was the following paragraph: ' I have read over Dr. Blair's first sermon with more than approbation; to say it is good, is too little.' Mr. Strahan had, very soon after this time, a conversation with Dr. Johnson concerning them; and then he very candidly wrote to Dr. Blair, enclosing Johnsign's note, and agreeing to purchase the volume, for which, in conjuction with Mr. Cadell, he offered £100. The offer being accepted, the volume was published. The sale was so rapid and extensive, that the proprietors spontaneously doubled the sum which they had agreed to give Dr. Blair for the copyright. Encouraged by the public approbation, Dr. Blair produced three additional volumes at different intervals; for the first of which, or second of the series, the same liberal publisher's gave £300, and for the two others, £600 each.
The wholeof these volumes experienced a degree of success which exceeds all that we, read of in the history of pulpit literature. 'They circulated,' says Dr. Finlayson, 'rapidly and widely wherever the English tongue extends; they were soon translated into almost all the language of Europe; and his present majesty (late majesty, George Ill.), with that wise attention to the interests of religion and literature which distinguishes his reign, was graciously pleased to judge them worthy of a public reward. By a royal mandate to the Exchequer in Scotland, dated July 25th, 1780, a pension of £200 was conferred on their author, which continued unaltered till his death.'
Late Attendance at Public Worship.
A want of punctual attention to the hour of commencing divine service, is a fault but too prevalent in worshipping assemblies. A worthy clergyman whose congregation had given him much vexation in this respect, began his discourse one Sunday in these terms: 'When I came here to begin to worship last Sabbath morning, I believe there were not twenty people in the chapel; at the weekly lecture it was the same; and again this morning; my heart is pained. What can you mean by this conduct?
Do you mean to worship God? then I must tell you plainly, and with the authority of a Christian minister, that this is no worship; deceive not yourselves, God will not accept it at your hands.' He proceeded to enforce this point with great earnestness and feeling, and produced such an impression on the minds of his hearers, that next Sabbath, almost every person had assembled by the time he ascended the pulpit.
A very common cause of late attendance, especially with the fair sex, is the time employed in dressing. Herbert has some lines so applicable to this sort of apology, that every lady would do well to have them written in letters of gold, and suspended over her toilet, that they might be ever present to her eyes.
'-- To be dressed!
Stay not for the other pin. Why thou hast lost
A joy for it worth worlds!'
Garrick's Precepts to Preachers.
The celebrated Garrick having been requested by Dr. Stonehouse to favour him with his opinion as to the manner in which a sermon ought to be delivered, the English Roscius sent him, the following judicious answer.
MY DEAR PUPIL,
You know how you would feel and speak in a parlour concerning a friend who was in imminent danger of his life, and with what energetic pathos of diction and countenance you would enforce the observance of that which you really thought would be for his preservation. You could not think of playing the orator, of studying your emphases, cadences, and gestures; you would be yourself; and the interesting nature of your subject impressing your heart, would furnish you with the most natural tone of voice, the most proper language, the most engaging features, and the most suitable and graceful gestures. What you would thus be in the parlour, be in the pulpit; and you will not fail to please, to effect, and to profit. Adieu, my dear friend.
Usher, afterwards Archbishop of Armagh, was very zealous against the Roman Catholics, and averse to their toleration. He once preached before the officers of the Irish government, from the text in Ezekiel, 'And thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days; I have appointed thee each day for a year.' In the course of his sermon, he made an application of the text which was remarkable. 'From this year (1601),' said he, 'I reckon forty years; and then those whom you now embrace shall be your ruin, and you shall bear their iniquity.' The apparent accomplishment of this prediction in the Irish rebellion of 1641, was a singular concurrence, and in the opinion of many, perhaps in his own, was regarded as an indication of his prophetic spirit.
When this eminent prelate was deprived of his benefices, he sought leave to preach publicly in London. Through the friendship of Mr. Selden, he became preacher to the Society of Lincoln's Inn, which afforded him a maintenance; but being obliged to relinquish it on account of the loss of his sight, his salary was curtailed, and he lived in poverty the remainder of his life.
Apology for Flattery.
James II. once asked a preacher, how he could justify the commending of princes when they did not deserve it? He answered, that princes were so high in station, that preachers could not use the same liberty in reproving them as other men, and therefore by praising them for what they were not, taught them what they ought to be. The king was pleased with the ingenuity of the answer, but observed that, for himself, he did not desire to be complimented into his duty; they had his full permission to tell him plainly of his faults; he desired their prayers, and not their praises.
Puritan Court Preachers.
Edward Dering, a puritan divine of the sixteenth century, was much celebrated for his eloquence in the pulpit. He appears to have carried his resistance to the established religion to a greater height than most of his brethren, and did not spare even the queen herself (Elizabeth). On one occasion, when preaching before her majesty, he told her that when she was persecuted by Queen Mary, her motto was tanquam ovis (like a sheep); but now it might be tanquam indomita juvenca (like an untamed heifer). The queen, with a mildness not usual with her, took no other notice of his rudeness than merely to order that he should not preach at court again.
Mr. Doolittle, a nonconformist minister, who lived towards the close of the seventeenth century, once discovered among his congregation a young man, who, being shut out of the pews, discovered much uneasiness, and seemed anxious to quit the chapel. Mr. Doolittle feeling a peculiar desire to detain him, effected it by the following expedient. Turning towards one of the members of his church, who sat in the gallery, he asked him aloud, 'Brother, do you repent of your coming to Christ?' 'No, sir,' he replied, 'I never was happy till then; I only regret that I did not come to him sooner.' Mr. Doolittle then turned towards the opposite gallery, and addressed himself to an aged member in the same manner, 'Brother, do you repent that you came to Christ?' 'No, sir,' said he, 'I have known the Lord from my youth up.' He then looked down upon the young man, whose attention was fully roused, and fixing his eyes upon him, said, 'Young man, are you willing to come to Christ?' This unexpected address from the pulpit exciting the observation of all the people, so affected him, that he sat down and hid his face. Mr. Doolittle repeated his question, 'Young man, are you willing to come to Christ?' Being urged by a person near him to answer, he replied, with a tremulous voice, 'Yes, sir.' 'But when, sir?' added the minister in a solemn and loud tone. He mildly answered, 'Now, sir.' 'Then stay,' said Mr. Doolittle, 'and hear the word of God, which you will find in 2_ Cor. vi. 2. "Behold, now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation."' He then made so impressive a discourse, that the young man dissolved in tears, and from that time became a member of his congregation.
When Oliver Heywood was about to quit the living of Coley Chapel, in the parish of Halifax, Yorkshire, on account of the laws of conformity, one of his hearers was very earnest in expressing his desire that he would still continue their preacher. Mr. Heywood said he would as gladly preach, as they could desire it, if he could conform with a safe conscience. 'Oh! sir,' replied the man, 'many a man now-a-days makes a great gash in his conscience, cannot you make a little nick in yours?'
'Love One Another.'
A Welsh parson preaching from this text, 'Love one another,' told his congregation, that in kind and respectful treatment to our fellow creatures, we were inferior to the brute creation. As an illustration of the truth of this remark, he quoted an instance of two goats in his own parish, that once met upon a bridge so very narrow, that they could not pass by without one thrusting the other off into the river. 'And,' continued he, 'how do you think they acted? Why, I will tell you. One goat laid himself down, and let the other leap over him. Ah! beloved, let us live like goats.'
A party of clergymen were one day in conversation pleasantly talking of their success in preaching. One of them said, 'Gentlemen, I once converted a man with my eyes.' When requested to explain, he added, 'a straggler once entered my church, and casting his looks towards me, he thought I was staring him in the face. To avoid my observation, he removed from door to door, but to no purpose. At last he resolved to stare me out of countenance; his attention was thus fixed upon what was said, and his sentiments and conduct from that day underwent a complete change.'
Absence of Mind.
A very absent divine finding his sight begin to fail, purchased a pair of spectacles, and on the first day of using them, preached for a brother clergyman, but was observed to have them at the top of his forehead during the whole sermon. 'So you have, at last, taken to spectacles, doctor?' said a friend after the service. 'Yes,' returned the unconscious absentee, 'I found I could not do without them, and I wonder now I never used them, till today!'
Whitfield being informed that some lawyers had come to hear him by way of sport, took for his text these words: 'And there came a certain lawyer to our Lord.' Designedly he read, '"And there came certain lawyers to our..." I am wrong; "a certain lawyer." I was almost certain that I was wrong. It is a wonder to see one lawyer; but what a wonder if there had been more than one?' The theme of the sermon corresponded with its commencement, and those who came to laugh, went away edified.
Burnet and Sprat.
Bishop Burnet and Bishop Sprat were old rivals. On some public occasion, they both preached before the House of Commons.
There prevailed in those days an indecent custom; when the preacher touched any favourable topic in a manner that delighted his audience, their approbation was expressed by a loud hum, continued in proportion to their zeal or pleasure. When Burnet preached, part of his congregation hummed so loudly and so long, that he sat down to enjoy it, and rubbed his face with his handkerchief. When Sprat preached, he was also honoured with the like animated hum; but he stretched out his hand to the congregation, and cried, 'Peace, peace, I pray you peace.'
Burnet's sermon (says Salmon) was remarkable for sedition; and Sprat's for loyalty. Burnet had the thanks of the House: Sprat had no thanks, but a good living from the king, which he said was of as much value as the thanks of the Commons.
A Scottish Covenanter.
In the year 1666, when the Whiggamores, alias Covenanters of Scotland, were in arms, a Master of Arts of the College of Aberdeen, preached at Aberdeen a sermon from these words in Jeremiah; 'Sion is wounded.' In this sermon, a copy of which is preserved in the British Museum, (Bibl. Birch, 4459) we have an amusing specimen of the style of preaching which prevailed in those days. He sets out with showing, that by the Sion in the text was meant 'the puir Kirk o' Scotland;' and then asks 'Wha has wounded her, trow ye?' 'To this purpose,' he says, 'I'se tell you a tale; but I'll no say 'tis true; but be it true, or be it fause, tak it as I tak it, a God's benison. When I was a young lad, there was a winsome man Student o' Theology at the College Aberdeen; and he was to mak a preachment before the Maisters, Regents o' the College, and out o' a' the Holy Scripture o' God he wailed this text; "What will ye gi me, and I'll betray him ta ye?" (and he could ha' said it in Latin, Quid dabitas!) And there was an honest auld man in a blew cap sitting at the feet o' the powpit, and he says till him' "Sir, gin ye betray him, I'se gie ye a good fat bishopric." Now ye may learn by this, wha' it is that betrays and wounds the peace o' the Kirk o' Scotland.' Having thus fixed the sin of wounding Sion or the Kirk of Scotland on the prelates, he proceeds to show how she was wounded; first, in her head; second, in her hand; third, in her heart; and fourthly, in her feet. Of the first head there are three sub-divisions, showing how the prelates had wounded the Kirk. 1st. 'With the sword o' their pride;' 2nd. 'With the sword o' their gluttony;'and 3rd. 'With the sword o'their covetousness.' In illustrating the fourth head, or wounding the feet, he says, 'I can remember weel since the Kirk o' Scotland might hae been likened to a bonny nag, that could have ambled and paced it fu' sweetly; but the bishops, these gallaping swingers, they gat o' the back o' the nag, an' they quite jaded him up to ruin, for they laid upon his back the Book o' Common Prayer, the Book o' Canons, and since they cam frae Lonon, the Aith o' Supremacy, and the Kirk law books. I wonder what errand they had there; but, beluved, what here and what there, they ha sae used him, that they hae no left him a fast nail in his feet.' Having discussed the four sorts of wounds, the preacher proceeds. 'And now, beluved, we may tell a tale without laughter; we can liken her to nane but Balaam's ass, for in that story there is four things to be heeded: 1st. The ass that we may compare to the Kirk o' Scotland. 2ndly. The riders, that's e'en the proud bishops. 3rdly. The angel that stopt the ass by the way; and wha trow ye that is? I'se sure ye wad fain hear that. It's e'en my gude Lord Eglinton, God's benison light on his bonny face There he sits, the trimmest sight that e'er the puir Kirk o'Scotland saw. 4thly. There was a portmanteau behind that nag, an' what trow ye was in it? E'en the Book of Common Prayer, and the Book of Canons, an' the Aith o' Supremacy, an' the Kirk law books: but I hope the good angel will tak him (episcopacy) out o' the saddle, for he hings by the hough hauf in and hauf out; fain wad he keep in; an' tells ye, let him but stay in, and he'll na' trouble ye wi' a portmanteau any more; but the de'el's a wily pow; let him but get in his little finger, an' he'll soon get in his whole hand; let but the loon get in the saddle, and we may a' pow till we are weary before we get him out again. But a word or two o' use; and first a word o' encouragement to a' the gude people that ha' already set their hearts an' hands to the reading an' avowing the solemn league an' covenant. Well, I say, nae mare but this, as ye hae begun this gude work, e'en sa perfect it, an' ye shall nae want your reward in heaven.'
The first remarkable occasion on which Latimer, one of that glorious army of martyrs who introduced the reformation into England, publicly avowed his opinion respecting the corruptions of the Romish Church, was in a course of sermons, which he delivered during the Christmas holidays before the University of Cambridge, to which he belonged. He insisted particularly on the great abuse of locking up the Scriptures in an unknown tongue; and endeavoured to show, that in comparison with the religion of the heart, external observances were of no manner of value. The orthodox part of the clergy, as they were then called, could not allow such heresies to pass without some attempt at a public confutation of them. The task was undertaken by Dr. Buckingham, Prior of the Black Friars, who appeared in the same pulpit a few Sundays after; and with great pomp and prolixity, declared against the dangerous tendency of Latimer's opinions, particularly the dreadful notion of having the Scriptures in English. 'If that heresy,' said he, 'were to prevail, we should soon see an end of everything useful among us. The ploughman reading, that if he put his hand to the plough, and should happen to look back, he was unfit for the kingdom of heaven, would soon lay aside his labour: the baker likewise reading that a little leaven will corrupt his lump, would give us very insipid bread; the simple man also finding himself commanded to pluck out his eyes, in a few years we should have the nation full of blind beggars.' Latimer could not help listening with secret pleasure to this ingenious reasoning; and longed till an opportunity came round for exposing it. When it came again to his turn to preach, the whole University crowded to hear him. Among the rest, Prior Buckingham himself entered the church with his cowl about his shoulders, and seated himself with an air of importance before the pulpit. Latimer with great gravity recapitulated the learned doctor's arguments, placed them in the strongest light, and then assailed them with so much good humour, that without exciting one unfavourable sentiment against himself, he made his adversary in the highest degree ridiculous. He then with great address appealed to the people; descanted upon the low esteem in which their guides had always held their understandings; expressed his indignation at their being treated with such contempt; and wished that his honest countrymen might only have the use of the Scriptures, till they were guilty of so absurd an interpretation of them, as that apprehended by the learned friar.
Latimer was afterwards interdicted from preaching by his Diocesan, the Bishop of Ely; but there, fortunately, happened at this time to be a Protestant Prior in Cambridge, Dr. Barnes, of the Austin Friars, who having a monastery exempt from episcopal jurisdiction, and being a great admirer of Latimer, boldly licensed him to preach there. The late opposition having greatly excited the curiosity of the people, the friar's chapel was soon incapable of containing the crowds that solicited admission. It is not a little remarkable, that the same Bishop of Ely who had interdicted Latimer, was now often one of his hearers; and had the ingenuousness to declare, that he was among the best preachers he had ever heard.
After Latimer's promotion to the See of Worcester, in the time of Henry VIll., he preached before the court. The sermon which he delivered on the occasion, was at a subsequent convocation of the bishops, at which the king was present, denounced to his majesty as seditious, by the Bishop of Winchester. Latimer being called upon by Henry with some sternness to vindicate himself, was so far from denying or even palliating what he had said, that he boldly justified it; and turning to the king with that noble unconcern which a good conscience inspires, made this answer: 'I never thought myself worthy, and I never sued to be a preacher before your Grace; but I was called to it; and would be willing, if you mislike it, to give place to my betters, for I grant there may be a great many more worthy of the room than I am. And if it be your Grace's pleasure to allow them for preachers, I could be content to bear their books after them. But if your Grace allow me for a preacher, I would desire you to give me leave to discharge my conscience, and to frame my doctrine according to my audience. I had been a very dolt indeed, to have preached so at the borders of your realm, as I preach before your Grace.' This answer baffled the malice of his accuser. The severity of the king's countenance relaxed into a gracious smile; and Latimer was dismissed with that obliging freedom which this monarch never used but to those he esteemed.
During the three first years of the succeeding reign of Edward VI., Latimer preached the Lent sermons before his majesty; and such were the crowds which then resorted to hear him, that Heylin tells us, the pulpit was removed out of the Royal Chapel into the Privy Garden.
His style of preaching is said to have been extremely captivating; simple and familiar, often enlivened with anecdote, irony, and humour; and still oftener swelling into strains of the most impassioned and awakening eloquence. Of the earnestness of his manner, we have the following striking specimen in one of his sermons delivered at court against the corruptions of the age. 'Take heed, and beware of covetousness; take heed, and beware of covetousness; take heed, and beware of covetousness; and what if I should say nothing else these three or four hours but these words? Great complaints there are of it, and much crying out, and much preaching, but little amendment that I can see. Covetousness is the root of all evil. Then have at the root; out with your swords, ye preachers, and strike at the root. Stand not ticking and toying at the branches, for new branches will spring out again; but strike at the root, and fear not these great men, these men of power, these oppressors of the needy; fear them not, but strike at the root.'
The celebrated Dr. Peter Martyr was governor of the monastery of St. Peter ad aram in Naples, when he first became acquainted with the writings of Zuinglius and Bucer, and was led by them to think favourably of the Protestant faith. A conversation which he had subsequently with Valdes, a Spanish lawyer, so confirmed him in his inclination to the new doctrines, that he made no scruple to preach them-privately to many persons of distinction, and sometimes even publicly. Thus, when preaching on I Cor. iii. 13, he boldly affirmed, that it had no reference, as had always before been contended, to the existence of a purgatory. 'Because,' said he, 'the fire there spoken of, is such a fire as both good and bad must pass through; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.' 'And this,' says Fuller in his quaint manner, 'seeming to shake a main pillar of purgatory, the Pope's furnace, the fire whereof, like the philosopher's stone, melteth all his leaden balls into pure gold; some of his under chemists, like Demetrius and the craftsmen, began to bestir themselves, and caused him to be silenced.'
Few sermons ever attracted so much attention at the period, or has been productive of such effects. as that of Bishop jewel, which he preached at Paul's Cross from these words: 'For I have received of the Lord, that which I also delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread,' &c. This sermon is said to have given a fatal blow to the Roman Catholic religion in England; but the challenge which he then made, and afterwards several times, and in several places repeated, was the most stinging part of his discourse. In this sermon he gave a public challenge to all the Roman Catholics in the world, to produce but one clear and evident testimony out of any father or famous writer who flourished within six hundred years after Christ, of the existence of any one of the articles which the Catholics maintain against the Church of England.
'This challenge,' says Dr. Heylin, 'being thus published in so great an auditory, startled the English Papists both at home and abroad;' and a long and able controversy, in which the challenger wag the most powerful combatant, succeeded.
Tributes to the Faith.
When Bishop Otto introduced Christianity into Pomerania, and among other towns visited Gutzkow, he found there a magnificent heathen temple; he had it pulled down, and a Christian church erected. When the new church was to be consecrated, Count MtizIaff, the lord of the town and district, appeared at the ceremony. The bishop spoke to him, saying, '0, sir! this consecration is nothing, unless thou and thy whole people consecrate yourselves to God.' The Count replied, 'What shall I do more? I have been baptized at Usedom. What do you require further of me?' Otto spoke: 'Thou hast many prisoners taken in war, whom thou detainest for their ransom, and there are Christians among them. Release them, and rejoice them this day in honour of Christ, and the consecration of this church.' MtizIaff hereupon ordered all the Christians among the prisoners to be brought forth, and set at liberty. The bishop then, encouraged by this concession, continued: 'The Heathen, too, are our brethren; release them also at my entreaty; I will baptize them, and lead them to our Saviour.' The Count ordered the Heathens also to be brought; and the bishop baptized them, and every eye was bedewed with tears.
When it was now thought that all the prisoners were released, and they were going to proceed with the consecration of the church, the servants were to bring salt, wine, and ashes, which were wanted for the ceremony. But there were no ashes, and the servants ran to fetch some. They went into the first and into the second house in the neighbourhood, and found nothing. While they were seeking in the third house, they heard underground a man lamenting and groaning; and on asking learned that it was a Dane of high rank, who was kept as a hostage for five hundred marks of silver, which his father owed to the Count for injury done him. They informed the bishop, who would willingly have begged for him, but dared not, on account of the magnitude of the injury. How could he still farther trouble the noble Count? But MtizIaff heard the whispering, and enquired: then the servants said softly, 'Sir, the Dane!' At this the Count started, and it cost him a great effort: yet he exclaimed, 'He is my worst enemy, and should make me ample atonement; but to-day I will regard no loss. Be it so: release the Dane also, and may God be gracious to me.' Then they fetched the prisoner, and placed him in his chains by the altar, and Otto pronounced the benediction.
Calamy's Reproof to General Monk.
The Rev. Edmund Calamy was once preaching before General Monk, and having occasion to speak of filthy lucre, he said, 'And why is it called filthy, but because it makes men do base and filthy things?' 'Some men,' added he, 'will betray three kingdoms for filthy lucre's sake.' Saying which, he threw his handkerchief, which he usually waved in his hand, at the pew in which General Monk sat. The allusion was doubtless applicable in the sense in which the reverend preacher spoke; but the three kingdoms appear themselves to have thought differently.
Tobias Matthew, Archbishop of York at the beginning of the seventeenth century, was particularly distinguished for his zeal and industry as a preacher, even after his preferment to a mitre. From September, 1583, when he was Dean of Durham, to the twentythird Sunday after Trinity, in 1622, a few years before his death, he kept an account of all the sermons he preached, the place where, the time when, and the distinguished persons, if any, before whom they were delivered.
It appears from this record, that he preached, while Dean of Durham, seven hundred and twenty-one; while Bishop of Durham, five hundred and fifty; and while Archbishop of York, to the time above mentioned, seven hundred and twenty-one; in all, one thousand nine hundred and ninety-two sermons! At the end of each year, he set down how many sermons he had preached; and usually adds a lamentation that the number is not greater. Thus, at the end of 1619, he writes, 'Sum Ser. 32. eheu!' at the end of 1620, 'Sum. Ser. 35, eheu!' The state of the account for 1621, appears to have grieved him still more. 'An. 1621, sore afflicted with a rheume and coughe diverse months, so that I never could preach until Easter daye. The Lord foregive me!' It is supposed that there was scarcely a pulpit in the wide dioceses of Durham and York, in which he had not appeared.
Herring, Archbishop of Canterbury, while preacher at Lincoln's Inn, took occasion, in one of his sermons, to condemn Gay's celebrated drama. the ' Beggar's Opera,' as of pernicious consequence to morals; and much clamour and ridicule was excited against him on this account. He had the suffrages, however, of nearly all the reflecting part of the public. Swift, in NO. 3 of his Intelligencer, has spoken of Herring's interference in terms which do the writer little credit. 'I should be very sorry,' he says, 'that any of them [the clergy] should be so weak as to imitate a court chaplain in England, who preached against the " Beggar's Opera, " which probably will do more good, than a thousand sermons of so stupid, so injudicious, and so prostitute a divine.' The sermons of Archbishop Herring, a volume of which have been published, contain a sufficient answer to this abusive tirade ; they bear the strongest marks of unaffected piety and benevolence; and cannot be read without profit, by any who are open to the influences of genuine Christianity.
The Two Abbots.
George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Robert, his brother, Bishop of Salisbury, were two of the most distinguished preachers of their day. 'George,' says one of their biographers, 'was the more plausible preacher; Robert, the greater scholar; George, the abler statesman; Robert the deeper divine; gravity did frown in George, and smile in Robert.'
John Stanhope, Esq., happening to hear Robert once preach at St. Paul's Cross, was so pleased with him, that he immediately presented him to the rich living of Bingham, in Nottinghamshire.
It appears that the claims to preferment which Robert had established, by his successful exertions as a preacher, were somewhat impeded by several works which he wrote against Dr. William Bishop, then a secular priest, but afterwards titular Bishop of Chalcedon. In allusion to this circumstance, the king, on his presenting himself at court to do homage for the Bishopric of Salisbury, observed, 'Abbot, I have had very much to do to make thee a bishop, but I know no reason for it, unless it were, because thou hast written against one (Dr. Bishop).'
Both the brothers were noted for their enmity to the celebrated Laud. Robert, in one of his sermons. made a violent attack on him, of which the following account is given by Wood, in his 'Annals.'
'On Shrove Sunday, towards the latter end of this year (1614), It happened that Dr. Laud preached at St. Mary's, and in his sermon insisted on some points which might indifferently be imputed either to Popery or Arminianism (as about this time they began to call it), though, in themselves, they were by some thought to be no other than the true doctrines of the Church of England. And having occasion in that sermon to touch upon the Presbyterians and their proceedings, he used some words to this effect, viz., 'that the Presbyterians were as bad as the Papists.' Which being directly contrary to the judgment and opinion of Dr. Robert Abbot, the King's Professor of Divinity; and knowing how much Dr. Laud had been distasted by his brother when he lived in Oxford, conceived he could not better satisfy himself and oblige his brother, now Archbishop of Canterbury, than by exposing him (on the next occasion), both to shame and censure, which he did accordingly. For preaching at St. Peter's in the East, upon Easter Day (1615), in the afternoon, in the turn of the ViceChancellor he pointed at him so directly, that none of the auditors were so ignorant as not to know at whom he aimed. Dr. Laud being not present at the first preaching of the sermon, was, by his friends, persuaded to show himself at St. Mary's the Sunday after, when it should come to be repeated (according to the ancient custom in this University), to whose persuasions giving an unwilling consent, he heard himself sufficiently abused for almost an hour together, and that so palpably and grossly, that he was pointed to as he sate.' It appears that Laud consulted his patron, Dr. Neal, Bishop of Lincoln, on the subject of his attack; but was probably dissuaded by Neal from taking any notice of it, as we do not find that he wrote any answer or vindication.
This distinguished preacher raised himself by his talents from a state of obscurity, to be the highest ornament of the age in which he lived, both for eloquence and piety. His most celebrated sermon is that on the small number of the elect, which occasioned many of his audience to rise from their seats, struck with the horror of not being of the number. [See Anecdotes of Eloquence.] The following are a few of the most striking passages of this admirable discourse.
'If you know to what obligations the title of Christian, which you bear, binds you; if you understand the holiness of your state; how much it prescribes to you a faithful life, a continual vigilance, precaution against the temptations of sensual gratifications; in a word, conformity to Jesus Christ crucified; if you could comprehend it; if you would consider, that before loving God with all your heart and all your strength, a single desire which does not relate to him would defile you; if you could comprehend this, you would find yourself a monster before his eyes. What would you say of obligations so holy, and manners so profane? a vigilance so continual, and a life so careless and dissipated? a love of God so pure, so full, so universal, and a heart always a prey to a thousand affections, either strange or criminal? If it be thus, 0 my God! who can then be saved? Few people, my dear audience; it will not be you, unless you are changed! it will not be those who resemble you; it will not be the multitude.'
'Who then can be saved? Do you wish to know? It will be those who work out their salvation with fear; who live amidst the world, but who live not as the world.
'Who can be saved? That Christian woman, who, confined to the circle of her domestic affairs, educates her children in faith and piety, leaving to the Almighty the decision of their destiny; who is adorned with chastity and modesty, who does not sit in the assembly of the vain; who does not make for herself a law of the foolish customs of the world, but corrects those customs by the law of God, and gives credit to virtue by her rank and example.
'Who can be saved? That faithful man, who, in these degenerate days, imitates the manners of the primitive Christians, whose hands are innocent and body pure; that vigilant man, who has not received his soul in vain, but who, even amidst the dangers of high life, continually applies himself to purify it: that just man who does not use deception towards his neighbour, and who owes not to doubtful means the innocent increase of his fortune; that generous man who loads with benefits the enemy who wishes to destroy him, and injures not his rivals, except by superior merit; that sincere man who does not sacrifice truth to a contemptible interest, and who knows not how to please in betraying his conscience; that charitable man who makes of his house and credit the asylum of his brethren, and of his person the consolation of the afflicted; that man who uses his wealth for the benefit of the poor; who is submissive in afflictions, a Christian in injuries, penitent even in prosperity.
'Who can be saved? You, my dear hearers, if you will follow these examples. Behold, these are the people who will be saved; but these certainly do not constitute the greatest number.
'There is perhaps no person here, who cannot say to himself, "I live as the majority, as those of my rank, of my age, and of my condition." I am lost if I die in this state. But what is more calculated to frighten a soul, to whom there remains still something to be done for its salvation? Nevertheless, it is the multitude who tremble not. Only a small number of pious persons work out their salvation with fear; all the rest are calm. One knows in general, that the majority of mankind are lost, but he flatters himself that after having lived with the multitude, he will be distinguished from them in death; each one puts himself in the case of chimerical exception, each augurs favourably for himself. And it is on this account that I address myself to you, my brethren, who are here assembled. I speak no more of the rest of men; I regard you as if you alone were upon the earth; and behold the thoughts which occupy and terrify me. I suppose that this is your last moment, and the end of the universe; that the heavens are going to open over your heads, Jesus Christ to appear in his glory in the middle of this temple; and that you are assembled here only to expect him, and as trembling criminals, to whom he is going to pronounce a sentence of pardon, or a decree of eternal death; because it is in vain for you to flatter yourselves, that you shall die better than you are at this time. All those designs of change which amuse you now, will amuse you even to the bed of death; it is the experience of all ages; everything that you will then find new in yourselves, will be perhaps an account, a little greater than that which you would have to render on this day; and from what you would be, if He should come to judge you in the present moment, you can almost with certainty decide what you will be at departing from this life. But I demand of you, and I demand it of you struck with horror, not separating in this point my lot from yours, and putting myself in the same state in which I wish that I should be. I ask you, then, if Jesus Christ should appear in this temple, in the midst of this assembly, the most august in the world, for the purpose of judging us, in order to make the just discrimination between the good and the bad, do you believe that the majority of us, who are here assembled, would be placed on the right? Do you believe that the number would be equal? Do you believe that He would find here even ten pious men, which the Almighty could not formerly find in five populous cities? I demand it of you; you are ignorant of it; and I am ignorant of it myself. Thou alone, 0 my God I knowest those who belong to thee. But if we know not those who belong to him, we know at least that sinners do not belong to Him. But who are the faithful ones here assembled? Titles and dignities ought to be counted as nothing; you will be deprived of them before Jesus Christ. Who are they? Many sinners who do not wish to be converted; still more who wish it, but who defer their conversion; many others who are converted only to fall again into sin. In fine, a great number, who believe they have no need of conversion; these are the reproved. Retrench these four sorts of sinners from this holy assembly; for they will be retrenched from it on that great day.
'Appear now, ye just; where are you? Remains of Israel, pass to the right; wheat of Jesus Christ, separate from this straw destined to the fire; 0 God! where are thy elect! And what remain for thy lot?'
Bishop Jeremy Taylor was one of the most eloquent pulpit orators that his country can boast. There was such a loftiness in his style, and such touching and heartfelt appeals to familiar life, that it has been well said of him, that 'the dancing light he throws upon objects, is like an aurora borealis playing betwixt heaven and earth.' Dr. Rust, who preached the bishop's funeral sermon, passes the following splendid panegyric on him. 'He had the good humour of a gentleman, the eloquence of an orator, the fancy of a poet, the acuteness of a schoolman, the profoundness of a philosopher, the wisdom of a chancellor, the sagacity of a prophet, the reason of an angel, and the piety of a saint. He had devotion enough for a cloister, learning enough for a university, and wit enough for a college of virtuosi; and had his parts and endowments been parcelled out among his clergy that he left behind him, it would, perhaps, have made one of the best dioceses in the world.'
Turning out a Congregation.
In the commencement of the civil wars, Cromwell, who had begun to rise in the army, wrote a letter to Mr. Hitch, one of the vicars of Ely, stating, that 'lest the soldiers should in any tumultuous or disorderly way attempt the reformation of the Cathedral church, he required him to forbear altogether the choir service; as he must answer for it, if any disorder should arise thereupon.' He also advised him to have more frequent preaching than had been hitherto usual in the cathedral, till he should have further directions from the parliament. Notwithstanding this letter, Mr. Hitch continued to officiate as before; upon which Cromwell, with his hat on, attended by a party of soldiers, followed by the rabble, entered the church while Mr. Hitch was preaching, and addressing himself to Mr. Hitch, said, 'I am a man under authority, and am commanded to dismiss this assembly.' Mr. Hitch paused in his sermon; but Cromwell and the rabble passing on towards the communion table, he proceeded in his discourse. Cromwell immediately returned, and laying his. hand upon his sword in a great passion, bade Mr. Hitch 'leave off his fooling, and come down;' and then drove out the congregation.
Stillingfleet and Charles II.
Charles the Second once demanded of Dr. Stillingfleet, who was a preacher to the court, 'why he read his sermons before him, when on every other occasion his sermons were delivered extempore?' The doctor answered, that overawed by so many great and noble personages, and in the presence of his sovereign, he dared not to trust his powers. 'And now,' said the divine, 'will your majesty permit me to ask a question?' 'Certainly,' said the condescending monarch. 'Why, then, does your majesty read your speeches, when it maybe presumed that you can have no such reason?' 'Why, truly,' said the king, 'I have asked my subjects so often for money, that I am ashamed to look them in the face.'
A late chaplain to the garrison of Quebec, possessed in an extraordinary degree the gift of extemporaneous preaching; and the officers, in Girder to put it to the test, used frequently to send him anonymous letters, which they contrived to have delivered to him as he was on the point of entering the pulpit, challenging him to preach, on the instant, on some out of the way text or other of their selection; which he never failed to do with considerable success. On one of these occasions overstepping the limits which a just respect should have prescribed to their levity, they requested him to give them a sermon on the eleventh commandment. The worthy preacher, not in the least disconcerted or displeased, began by announcing that he had received such a letter, and would cheerfully comply with it. 'The subject, then, my beloved brethren,' proceeded he, 'of the discourse which is to follow, you will find in the Second Epistle of John, v. 5, 6. And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning; that we love one another. And this love is, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment - That as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.'
Dr. Westfield, the Bishop of Bristol in the reign of Charles the First, was so excellent a preacher, that Bishop King said he was 'born an orator;' and yet he was of such extreme modesty, that he never ascended the pulpit, even when he had been fifty years a preacher, but he trembled. Preaching once before the king at Oxford, he fainted away; but his majesty awaited his recovery, and then had from him such a sermon, as abundantly rewarded the royal condescension.
Bishop Bull's first appointment in the church, was the small benefice of St. George's, near Bristol. A little occurrence, soon after his coming to this living, contributed greatly to establish his reputation as a preacher. One Sunday, after he had begun his sermon, as he was turning over his Bible to explain some texts of Scripture which he had quoted, his notes, which were written on several small pieces of paper, flew out of the Bible into the middle of the church. Many of the congregation fell into laughter, concluding that their young preacher would be at a stand for the want, or, at least, the derangement of his materials; but some of the more grave and better natured sort, gathered up the scattered notes, and carried them to him in the pulpit. Mr. Bull perceiving that most of the audience, consisting chiefly of sea-faring persons, were rather inclined to take delight in his mischance, replaced the leaves in the Bible, and shutting it, went on with the discourse to the end, without once referring to them. Having by this ready effort secured the good opinion of his flock, it was not long, till he gained their affections; of which, on another occasion, they gave a striking proof. While Mr. Bull was preaching, a Quaker came into the church, and in the middle of the sermon cried out, 'George, come down, thou art a false prophet and a hireling!' The people incensed at this indignity to their pastor, fell upon the poor Quaker with such fury, that Mr. Bull was obliged to come down from the pulpit to rescue him out of their hands; having done so, he went up again, and finished his sermon.
The spirit which prevailed at this period, would not admit of the open and public use of the 'Book of Common Prayer;' but Mr. Bull formed all his public devotions out of it, and was commended as a person who prayed by the spirit, by many who condemned the Common Prayer as a 'beggarly element,' and 'a carnal performance.' A singular instance of this occurred to him on being sent for to baptize the child of a dissenter in his parish. On this occasion, he made use of the office of baptism as prescribed by the Church of England, which he had got entirely by heart, and which he went through with so much seraphic devotion, that the whole company were much affected. After the ceremony, the father of the child returned him a great many thanks, intimating, at the same time, with how much greater edification those prayed, who entirely depended on the Spirit of God for assistance in their extemporary effusions, than others did, who tied themselves up to premeditated forms, and that if he had not made the sign of the cross, the badge of popery, as he called it, nobody could have found the least objection to his excellent prayers. Mr. Bull on this showed him the office of baptism in the Liturgy, containing every prayer he had used on that occasion; this, with other arguments offered by Mr. Bull in favour of the Common Prayer, wrought so effectually upon the good man and his whole family, that from that time they became constant attendants on the public service of the church.
In 1633, Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester, happening to be present at a sermon delivered at court by Dr. Henry Hammond, was so deeply affected by it, and conceived so high an opinion of the preacher's merit, that he spontaneously conferred upon him the rectory of Penshurst in Kent, which was then vacant, and in his lordship's gift. King Charles I. used to say of Dr. Hammond, that he was the most natural orator he ever heard. He had a free, graceful, and commanding elocution. He had not, however, a good memory; and was wont to complain, that it was harder for him to get one sermon by heart, than to pen twenty.
Mr. Jones, in his 'Life of Bishop Horne,' speaking of Dr. Hinchcliffe, Bishop of Peterborough, says, that in the pulpit he 'spoke with the accent of a man of sense (such as he really was in a superior degree); but it was remarkable, and to those who did not know the cause, mysterious, that there was not a corner of the church in which he could not be heard distinctly.' The reason which Mr. Jones assigns was, that he made it an invariable rule, 'to do justice to every consonant, knowing that the vowels will be sure to speak for themselves. And thus he became the surest and clearest of speakers; his elocution was perfect, and never disappointed his audience.'
Praying for our Enemies.
The minister of a corporate town in the North of England having been affronted by the mayor, who was a butcher, determined on resenting it, and that too (most improperly) in the way of his profession. On the following Sunday, when preaching before the corporation, he introduced the following sentence in one of the occasional prayers: 'And since, 0 Lord! thou has commanded us to pray for our enemies, herein we beseech thee for the right worshipful the mayor; give him the strength of Samson, and the courage of David, that he may knock down sin like an ox, and sacrifice iniquity like a lamb, and may his horn be exalted above his brethren.'
Two candidates of the name of Adam and Low, preached probation sermons for a lectureship, which was in the gift of the congregation. Mr. Low preached in the morning, taking for his text, 'Adam, where art thou?' and made a very excellent sermon, with which the congregation appeared much edified. Mr. Adam, who was present, preached in the evening, taking for his text the passage immediately following that of his rival, 'Lo, here am I.' This impromptu, and his sermon, gained Mr. A. the lectureship.
A dissenting minister at Liverpool preaching a sermon for the Infirmary, among other arguments to effect his purpose, pleasantly observed, 'Such was the importance and excellence of the institution, that no man could possibly be prevented from bestowing liberally, according to his ability, but by some distress of circumstances. Whoever, therefore,' he added, 'shrinks from his duty on this occasion, must be inevitably concluded to be in debt.' The consequence was, a plentiful contribution.
Dean Swift always performed the duties of religion with punctuality and devotion; but he could not forbear indulging the peculiarity of his humour when an opportunity offered, whatever might be the impropriety of the time and place. Upon his being appointed to the living of Loracor, in the diocese of Meath, he gave public notice that he would read prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays, which had not been the custom; and, accordingly, the bell was rung, and he went to church. On the first day he remained some time with no other auditor than his clerk, Roger, when he at length began; 'Dearly beloved Roger, the scripture moveth you and me in sundry places,' and so proceeded to the end of the service.
'Let modest Foster, if he will, excel
Ten metropolitans in preaching well.'
Few preachers in London have enjoyed a greater share of popularity than Dr. James Foster, who delivered the Sunday Evening Lectures at the old Jewry, for upwards of twenty years. Hither resorted persons of every rank, station, and quality; clergy, wits, freethinkers; and hither curiosity probably drew Pope himself, before he was induced to hand the preacher down to fame as 'the modest Foster.' His talent for preaching is universally allowed to have been eminent and extraordinary. His voice was naturally sweet, strong, distinct, harmonious; and a good ear enabled him to manage it exactly. His action was grave, expressive, natural, free from all violence or distortion: in short, such as became the pulpit, and was necessary to give force and energy to the truths there delivered.
He began to preach at the age of twenty, at Exeter; he afterwards removed to Ashwich, under the mountains of Mendip. Here he preached to two poor plain congregations at Colesford and Wookey, near Wells, which, together, brought him in fifteen pounds yearly; yet in the midst of this poverty and fatigue, he retained great cheerfulness, and applied himself to his studies very intently. His sermon on the resurrection, and his celebrated essay on fundamentals, instead of allaying the ferment of party, raised him many enemies, and forced him to Trowbridge, where his congregation did not consist of more than twenty or thirty persons of the presbyterian persuasion. His fame as a preacher becoming at length known, he was invited to London.
The private character of Dr. Foster has been spoken of, by his friends, in the highest terms. They dwell with peculiar emphasis on his humanity, as a man perfectly free from everything gross and worldly. His benevolence and charities were so extraordinary, that he never reserved anything for his own future use; and had it not been for two thousand subscribers to his 'Discourses on Natural Religion and Social Virtue,' he would have died extremely poor.
Dr. Hoadly, who had the fortune to produce more controversies by his sermons from the pulpit, than almost any divine that ever lived, was at the same time far from being a popular preacher. His first preferment was to the lectureship of St. Mildred in the Poultry, London, which he held for ten years; and, as he informs us himself, preached down to £3o a year, when he thought it high time to resign it. When made Bishop of Bangor, in 1715, he still remained in the metropolis, preaching against what he considered as certain inveterate errors of the clergy. Among other discourses which he made at this period, was one upon these words, 'My kingdom is not of this world,' which producing the famous Bangorian controversy, as it was called, employed the press for many years. The manner in which Hoadly explained the text was, that the clergy had no pretensions to any temporal jurisdiction; but in the course of the debate, the argument insensibly changed from the rights of the clergy, to that of princes in the government of the church.
Thomas Fuller, so well known as the author of the 'Worthies of England,' and other works, on first coming to London, soon distinguished himself so much in the pulpits there, that he was invited by the master and brotherhood of the Savoy to be their lecturer. On the breaking out of the rebellion, and when the king left London in 1641 to raise an army, Mr. Fuller continued at the Savoy, and laboured all the while, both in public and private, to promote the cause of the king. On the anniversary of his inauguration, when the king had left London with a view to commence hostilities against the rebels, March 27, 1642, Fuller preached at Westminister Abbey, a sermon from 2 Sam. xix. 30. 'Yea, let them take all, so that my lord the king return in peace.' The sermon, as may well be supposed, gave great offence; and the preacher was soon afterwards forced to withdraw from London; on which, he proceeded to Oxford, to share the fortunes of the king.
As Charles had heard much of his abilities in the pulpit, he was now desirous of witnessing them personally; and accordingly, Fuller preached before his majesty at St. Mary's Church. The impression which this sermon made, was singular enough. In London, Fuller had been censured for being too hot a royalist; and now he was thought to show lukewarmness to the royal cause. So far was this however from being the case, that he afterwards joined the royal army, and attended it from place to place; constantly exercising the duty of a chaplain; and after the battle of Chereton-Down, March 29, 1644, being left at Basing-house, he animated the garrison to so vigorous a defence of that place, that Sir William Waller was obliged to raise the siege with considerable loss.
When Julius Mascaron preached before the French court in 1666 and 1667, some envious persons would have made a crime of the freedom with which he announced the truths of Christianity to King Louis XIV. His majesty very spiritedly rebuked them, saying, 'He has done his duty; it remains for us to do ours.' Preaching again before the king twenty-seven years afterwards, Louis was so much pleased, that he paid him this elegant compliment: Your eloquence alone neither wears out nor grows old.' Mascaron is chiefly known to posterity by his funeral orations, among which those on Turenne and Seguier are particularly admired.
'Imbrown'd with native bronze, lo! Henley stands.' POPE.
In the 'Oratory Transactions' of that eccentric character, John Henley, better known by the appellation of 'Orator Henley,' he tells us that, on his first coming to London, he preached more charity sermons about town, was more numerously followed, and raised more for the poor, than any other preacher, however dignified or distinguished. One of his special merits, according to his own account, consisted in his being the first to introduce regular action into the pulpit; but this probably deserves to be ranked with the many other things peculiar to Orator Henley, 'which no mortal ever thought of.' His popularity, and the novelty of his style, were the true causes, he says, why some obstructed his rising in town; from envy, jealousy, and a disrelish of those who are not qualified to be complete spaniels. For there was no objection to his being tossed into a country benefice by the way of the sea, as far as Galilee of the Gentiles (like a pendulum swinging one way as far as the other). Not being able to obtain preferment in the church, he struck out the plan of his lectures or orations, discoursing on Sundays on theological matters, and on the Wednesdays on all other sciences. Every Saturday he used to publish an advertisement in the Daily Advertiser, containing an account of the subjects on which he intended to discourse on the ensuing evening at his oratory, which was situated near Lincoln's Inn Fields. The advertisement had a sort of motto before it, which was generally a sneer at some public transaction of the preceding week. For example: Dr. Cobden, one of the chaplains to George II. having, in 1748, preached a sermon at St. James's from these words, 'Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness;' it gave so much displeasure, that the doctor was struck out of the list of royal chaplains; and the next Saturday the following parody of his text appeared as a motto to Henley's advertisement:
'Away with the wicked before the king,
And away with the wicked behind him;
His throne it will bless
And we shall know where to find him.'
Dr. Watts was one of the first preachers that taught the Dissenters to court attention by the graces of language. Whatever they had among them before, either of learning or acuteness, was commonly obscured and blunted by coarseness and inelegance of style. In the pulpit, though his low stature graced him with no advantages of appearance, yet the gravity and propriety of his utterance made his discourses very pleasing. Such was his flow of thoughts, and such his facility of language, that in the latter part of his life he did not write his sermons, but having sketched some notes, trusted for success to his extemporary powers. He never sought to assist his eloquence by any gesticulations, but showed his auditors that zeal and purity might be expressed and enforced by polished diction, independent of any corporeal attitudes, which have no necessary connexion with theological truth. When the infirmities of age disabled him from the more laborious part of his ministerial duties, and he was no longer capable of performing public duty, he offered to remit the salary attached to it; but his congregation would not accept the resignation.
Samuel Wesley, the father of the celebrated John Wesley, being strongly importuned by the friends of James the Second, to support the measures of the court in favour of popery, with promises of preferment, absolutely refused to read even the king's declaration; and though surrounded with courtiers, soldiers, and informers, he preached a bold and pointed discourse against it from these words: 'If it be so, our God whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thy hand, 0 king. But if not, be it known unto thee, 0 king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.'
Although John Wesley is generally considered as the founder of the Methodists, yet the basis was laid by Mr. Whitefield, who was preaching to large assemblies in London, Bristol, Gloucester, and other places, while Mr. Wesley was unsuccessfully attempting to convert the heathen in Georgia. It is, therefore, apparent that though the Wesleys had never existed, Whitefield would have given birth to Methodism. When Whitefield, however, having excited this powerful sensation in England, had departed for Georgia, to the joy of those who dreaded the excesses of his zeal, no sooner had he left the metropolis than Wesley arrived there, to deepen and widen the impression which Whitefield had made. Had their measures been concerted, they could not more entirely have accorded.
The first sermon which Wesley preached in London was upon these strong words:- 'If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.' and though he himself had not yet reached the same stage in his progress as his more ardent coadjutor, the discourse was so highstrained that he was informed that he was not to preach again in that pulpit from which it was delivered.
On the next Sunday he preached at St. Andrew's, Holborn, but in a style to which the pulpit of that church was so unused, and so contrary to the passive and compatible views which then so generally regulated the practice of the clergymen of the establishment, that he was in like manner informed that he must preach there no more.
Wesley, thus driven from the pulpits of the church, was led to form that separate yet kindred establishment which has since been productive of such great results.
Even at this period, however, Wesley appears to have had doubts as to his call to preach the gospel. We learn this from the account he gives of his conversations with Peter Boehler, a Moravian, who accompanied him on a visit of some days to Oxford. During these days he conversed much with the Moravian, but says that he understood him not, and least of all when he said, Mi frater, mi frater, execoquenda est ista tua Philosophia. Boehler possessed one kind of philosophy in a higher degree than his friend; the singularity of their appearance and manner excited some mockery from the undergraduates, and the German, who perceived that Wesley was annoyed by it, chiefly on his account, said with a smile, 'Mi frater, non adhaeret vestibus' - 'it does not even stick to our clothes.' This man, a person of no extraordinary powers of mind, became Wesley's teacher; it is no slight proof of his commanding intellect, that he was listened to as such, and by him. 'In the hands of the great God,' says Wesley, 'I was clearly convinced of unbelief, of the want of that faith whereby alone we are saved.' A scruple immediately occurred to him whether he should leave off preaching, and Boehler answered 'BY no means.' 'But what can I preach?' said Wesley. The Moravian replied, 'Preach faith till you have it; and then because you have it, you will preach faith.' Accordingly he began to preach this doctrine, though, be says, his soul started back from the work.
John Wesley had a great aversion to laypreaching at first, and his brother Charles called it a pestilent error, but the adopting it was forced upon him by circumstances, and in the selection zeal was the principal qualification which he required. If the preacher possessed no other requisite for the work, and failed to produce an effect upon his hearers his ardour was soon cooled, and he withdrew quietly from the field, but such cases were not frequent. The gift of speaking is an ordinary one, and when the audience are in sympathy with the speaker, they are easily pleased or affected; the understanding makes no demand, provided the passions find their food. But, on the other hand, when enthusiasm was united with strength of talents and of character, Wesley was a skilful preceptor, who knew how to discipline the untutored mind, and to imbue it thoroughly with the system. No founder of a monastic order ever more entirely possessed the respect, as well as the love and admiration, of his disciples, nor better understood their individual characters, and how to deal with each according to the measure of his capacity. Where strength of mind and steadiness were united with warmth of heart, he made the preacher his counsellor as well as his friend. When only simple zeal was to be found, he used it for his instrument as long as it lasted. An itinerant, who was troubled with doubts respecting his call, wrote to him in fit of low spirits, requesting that he would send a preacher to supersede him in his circuit, because he believed he was out of his place. Mr. Wesley replied, in one short sentence;- Dear brother, you are indeed out of your Place; for you are reasoning when you ought to be praying.'
The compensation to the preachers among the Wesleyan Methodists, has always been very inconsiderable. On the first establishment of circuits, the wives of itinerant preachers were allowed four shillings per week during the absence of their husbands, and one pound per quarter for each child. When the husband was at home eighteenpence a day was allowed for his board, at the rate of sixpence for dinner and fourpence for breakfast, tea, and supper, but when invited out the allowance was deducted.
There is a letter of advice from Mr. Wesley to one of his Irish preachers, written in the year 1769, which gives a curious picture of the people for whom such advice could be useful.
'Dear brother,' he says, 'I shall now tell you the things which have been, more or less, upon my mind ever since I was in the north of Ireland. If you forget them you will be a sufferer, and so will the people; if you observe them it will be good for both. Be steadily serious. There is no country upon earth where this is more necessary than in Ireland, as you are generally encompassed with those who, with a little encouragement, would laugh or trifle from morning till night. In every town visit all you can, from house to house, but on this and every other occasion avoid all familiarity with women; this is deadly poison, both to them and to you. You cannot be too wary in this respect. Be active, be diligent; avoid all laziness, sloth, and indolence; fly from every degree, every appearance of it, else you will never be more than half a Christian. Be cleanly; in this let the Methodists take pattern by the Quakers.
Let thy mind's sweetness have its operation
Upon thy person, clothes, and habitation.'
Whatever clothes you have, let thern be whole, no rents, no tatters, no rags; these are a scandal to either man or woman, being another fruit of wild laziness. Mend your clothes, or I shall never expect to see you mend your lives. Let none ever see a ragged Methodist. Do not cut off your hair, but clean it, and keep it clean.
Use no snuff, unless prescribed by a physician. I suppose no other nation in Europe is in such vile bondage to this silly, nasty, dirty custom as the Irish are. Touch no dram; it is liquid fire; it is a sure though slow poison; it saps the very springs of life. In Ireland, above all countries in the world, I would sacredly abstain from this, because the evil is so general; and to this, and snuff, and smoky cabins, I impute the blindness which is so exceeding common throughout the nation.'
A recent traveller in the United States gives a singular account of the fanatical preaching of one of the numerous sects in that country. He says' 'Having heard that American Methodists were distinguished for an extreme degree of fanatical violence in their religious exercises, I visited the African church (all houses of religious assembly being denominated churches), in which were none but blacks, and in the evening, Ebenezer Church, in which were only whites. As the latter possessed all the characteristics of the former, with considerable additions of its own, to that only is it necessary that I should call your attention. I went at eight o'clock in the evening. The door was locked; but the windows being open, I placed myself at one of them, and saw that the church within was crowded almost to suffocation. The preacher indulged in long pauses, and occasional loud elevations of voice, which were always answered by the audience with deep groans. A gentleman informed me that he was at "Ebenezer" a few days before, when the preacher stopped in the midst of his discourse, and directed those among his audience who were for King Jesus to stand up. Numbers of men and women immediately rose, shouting, "I am for Jesus!" "I am for Jesus!" "I am for King Jesus!" "Oh, that I could press him to my bosom!" "There he comes!" "I am for King Jesus!" I am informed that these exhibitions are neither singular in occurrence, nor partial in extent; and feel at a loss to account for such fanatical enthusiasm in this country. It is by no means an essential part of the creed of either Wesley or Whitefield; and, in Great Britain, few bodies of men conduct their meetings with more order than the Methodists.'
'Loyal Men of Kendal.'
Mr. Whitefield was remarkably happy in adapting his sermons to the condition of his hearers, or the peculiar circumstances of the times. When he went to Kendal, in Westmoreland, during the time of the Scotch rebellion in 1745, he learnt that the loyalty of the town had been strongly manifested in the number of recruits it had sent to the royal army. Mr. Whitefield, in his first sermon in the market-place, turned this to advantage, and thus commenced his sermon:- '0 yez, 0 yez, 0 yez, ye loyal men of Kendal, having heard with what readiness you have enlisted under the banners of his majesty King George to defend him and his throne against all its enemies, I am proud to come among you, since I hold a commission, not from any earthly potentate, but from the King of kings, with power to enlist you under the banners of the cross, and lead you to triumph over the world, the flesh, and the devil.' Such a commencement did not fail to attract attention, nor did Mr. Whitefield fail to profit by it, to enforce the great truths of Christianity on his auditors.
Bishop of Cloyne.
When Dr. Bennet, the Bishop of Cloyne, first entered on a curacy near Cambridge, the town was overrun with Methodists. His discernment readily pointed out the cause of the emptiness of the church, whilst the neighbouring barn teemed with hearers; it arose from the custom of reading the sermon, when the eyes of the preacher being immovably fixed on the book, and his voice almost lost in the pulpit, there is nothing to distinguish him from a statue, save the droning whine, or the mumbling lip. Dr. Bennet instantly adopted the extemporaneous mode of preaching, and soon transferred the swarm into his own hive.
When Whitefield preached before the seamen at New York, he had the following bold apostrophe in his sermon:
'Well, my boys, we have a clear sky, and are making fine headway over a smooth sea before a light breeze, and we shall soon lose sight of land. But what means this sudden lowering of the heavens, and that dark cloud arising from beneath the western horizon? Hark! Don't you hear distant thunder? Don't you see those flashes of lightning? There is a storm gathering! Every man to his duty! How the waves rise, and dash against the ship! The air is dark! The tempest rages! Our masts are gone! The ship is on her beam ends! What next?'
It is said that the unsuspecting tars, reminded of former perils on the deep, as if struck by the power of magic, arose with united voices and minds, and exclaimed Take to the long-boat.
In the reign of George II. Dr. Delany, the friend of Swift, being desirous of the honour of preaching before his majesty, he obtained from the Lord Chamberlain, or Dean of the Chapel, the favour of being appointed to the office on the fifth Sunday of some month being an extra day not supplied ex officio by the chaplains. Not being informed of the etiquette, the doctor entered the royal chapel after the prayers began; and not knowing whither to go, glided into the desk by the side of the reader. The vesturer, soon after, was at a loss for the preacher; till seeing a clergyman kneeling by the reader, he concluded that he was the man. Accordingly, he went to him, and pulled him by the sleeve. The doctor, chagrined at being interrupted in his devotions, resisted, and kicked the intruder, who, in vain, begged him to come out, saying, 'There was no text.' The doctor replied tartly, 'that he had a text.' Nor could he comprehend what was meant, till the reader acquainted him that he must go into the vestry and write down the text (as usual) for the closet. When he went into the vestry, his hand shook so much, that he could not write. Mrs. Delany, therefore, was sent for; but no paper was at hand. At last, on the cover of a letter, the text was transcribed by Mrs. Delany, and then carried up to the king and royal family.
Father Chatenier, a Dominican, who preached in Paris in the years 1715-17, felt one day much incensed against some young men, who attended his sermons only to laugh. After some severe remarks on the indecency of such conduct, he said, 'Apres votre mort, ou croyez-vous que vous irez? au bal, a l'opera, dans des assembles ou il y aura des belles femmes? Non, au feu, au feu!' He pronounced the last words with a voice so strong and so terrible, that he frightened his auditors, many of whom instantly quitted their seats, as if the flames were in the church, and the place of their sin was to be that of their punishment.
The father of Dr. Young, the poet, when a prebendary of Sarum, preached a Latin sermon at Sprat's visitation of the diocese, which so pleased the bishop, that he told the chapter he was concerned to find the preacher had one of the worst prebends in their church. A short time after, he was preferred to the deanery of Sarum, in consequence of his merit and reputation. On his decease, Bishop Burnet preached his funeral sermon at the cathedral, which he thus commenced: 'Death has been of late walking round us, and making breach upon breach upon us, and has now carried away the head of this body with a stroke; so that he whom you saw a week ago distributing the holy mysteries, is now laid in the dust. But he still lives in the many excellent directions he has left us, both how to live and how to die.'
A Long Sermon.
A preacher who had divided his sermon into numerous divisions and sub-divisions, quite exhausted the patience of his auditors, who finding night approaching, quitted the church one after another. The preacher not perceiving this rapid desertion, continued to dispute with himself in the pulpit; until a singing-boy who remained, said, 'Sir, here are the keys of the church; when you have finished, will you be careful to shut the door.'
'The Practice of Piety.'
The popular work entitled, 'The Practice of Piety,' by Bishop Bayly, is stated to have been the substance of several sermons which the bishop preached when he was minister of Evesham, in Worcestershire. So great was, at one time, the popularity of this work, that John d'Espagne, a French preacher at Somerset Chapel in 1656, complained in the pulpit, that the generality of the common people paid too great a regard to it, and considered the authority of it as almost equal to that of the Scriptures. The work went through a prodigious number of editions, in 12mo and 18mo, and was translated into the Welsh and French in 1653.
The crowds that attended the preaching of Whitefield, first suggested to him the thought of preaching in the open air. When he mentioned this to some of his friends, they judge it was mere madness; nor did he begin to practice it until he went to Bristol, when finding the churches denied to him, he preached on a hill at Kingswood to the colliers; and, after he had done this three or four times, his congregation is said to have amounted to twenty thousand persons. That any human voice could be heard by such a number, is improbable; but that he effected a great moral reform among these colliers, by his preaching, cannot be denied. 'The first discovery,' he tells us, 'of their being effected, was the white gutters made by their tears, which plentifully fell down their black cheeks, as they came out of their coal pits.' After this, he preached frequently in the open air in the vicinity of London, and in other parts of the country, to assembled thousands.
Dr. Edward Pococke, the celebrated Orientalist, always avoided in his sermons the least show of ostentation of learning. His care not to amuse his hearers with things which they could not understand, gave some of them occasion to entertain a very contemptible opinion of his learning, and to speak of him accordingly. One of his Oxford friends travelling through Childry, enquired, for amusement, who was their minister, and how they liked him? He was answered, 'Our parson is one Mr. Pococke, a plain honest man; but, master, he is no Latiner.'
Dr. Priestley, and his brother, the Rev. Timothy Priestley, many years minister of an independent chapel in London, entertained very different religious opinions. The lecture at Oldbury, in Lancashire, on St. Bartholomew's day, instituted in commemoration of the two thousand ejected ministers, had been many years in the hands of the Unitarians. Two ministers were appointed to preach annually; and it was usual for each to appoint his successor for the year ensuing. It so happened that upon one of these occasions, the two brothers Priestley were fixed upon for that purpose. This was a great mortification to the doctor, who wished his brother to decline, and wrote to him for that purpose. Mr. Priestley replied, that his honour was at stake, it was known in so many places; and he particularly wished to let the world see, that though they differed so widely, they could upon such an occasion preach together. He further promised that nothing angry should escape his lips: but the doctor being sensible that his brother would not conceal his sentiments, declined being there at all.
After Cromwell had seized on the reins of government, Richard Baxter, the celebrated Nonconformist divine, once preached before the Protector, when he made use of the following text: 'Now, I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus the Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no division amongst you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment.' The discourse on these words was levelled against the divisions and distractions which then prevailed, especially in the church. After the sermon, Cromwell sent for Mr. Baxter, and made a long and serious speech to him, about God's providence in the change of the government, and the great things which had been done at home and abroad. Mr. Baxter answered that it was too condescending in his highness to acquaint him so fully with all these matters, which were above his understanding; but that the honest people of the land took their ancient monarchy to be a blessing, and not an evil; and humbly craved his patience, that he might ask him how they had forfeited that blessing? At this question, he said 'There was no forfeiture, but God had changed things as it pleased him;' Cromwell became angry, and after reviling the parliament which thwarted him, and especially by name, four or five members, who were particular friends of Mr. Baxter, he dismissed the worthy divine with signs of great displeasure.
Mr. Baxter came to London a little before the deposition of Richard Cromwell, and preached before the parliament the day preceding that on which they voted the king's return. On the king's restoration, he was appointed one of his chaplains in ordinary, preached once before him, had frequent access to his majesty, and was always treated by him with peculiar respect.
Preaching one Sunday, soon after the restoration, in St. Dunstan's Church, which was very old, something in the steeple fell down. The noise struck such terror into the people, that, in wild disorder, they began to run out of the church. In the midst of the confusion, Mr. Baxter, without any visible emotion, sat down in the pulpit. When the hurry was over, and the congregation was in some degree tranquillized, he resumed his discourse, and said, 'We are in the service of God, to prepare ourselves, that we may be fearless at the great noise of the dissolving world, when the heavens shall pass away, and the elements melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works therein shall be burnt up.'
At the time that the subject of the veto excited so much interest among the Roman Catholics in Ireland, a curious dialogue took place in Skibbereen chapel between the Rev. Michael Collins and a Mr. O'Driscoll, between whom great animosities existed respecting the veto. Mr. Collins was preaching a sermon, when he was addressed by Mr. O'Driscoll. The following are the priest's own remarks:
'While I was preaching, a voice from the opposite gallery said something about the Pope; it was Mr. O'Driscoll's. It struck me that he said the Pope had sanctioned the veto. I denied the fact, and begged not to be interrupted.' Mr. O'D. 'I will interrupt you as often as you allude to me or my friends.' Mr. C. ' I have disclaimed personal allusions.' Mr. O'D. 'You are deluding the blind multitude; the poor creatures; a thousand millions have declared for the veto.' Mr. C. 'A thousand millions! puh!' Mr. O'D. 'Here is Lord Trimblestone's petition; read it.' Mr. C. 'Sir, I shall use my own discretion, and choose my own topics: do not interrupt me. I am here in the discharge of my lawful duties; no man has a legal right to obstruct me. If any man disapproves of what I say, let him withdraw; but let him not interrupt me.' Mr. O'D. 'You have no right to introduce politics here.' Mr. C. You are a magistrate?' Mr. O'D. 'Yes.' Mr. C. 'If I say anything illegal, prosecute me according to law.' Mr. O'D. 'If I saw you acting against the law, I would wink at it.' Mr. C. 'I don't want your winking, nor would I trust to it; but now I warn you, that in thus persisting to interrupt me, you are acting against law, and breaking the peace. The Catholic clergy have been charged with a design to subvert the Constitution.' Mr. O'D. 'I did not charge them with that; I said, that in meddling with politics they must have other intentions.' Mr. C. 'This is not a political question; I have not discussed it as such. I have treated it as regards religion; I have a to treat it in that view.' Mr. O'D. 'You have no right to talk politics.' Mr. C. 'Sir, I must tell you that you are very presumptuous.' Mr. O'D. 'I am not presumptuous; in any other place I would say something else.' Mr. C. 'I would tell you so here, or elsewhere. Strange doctrines have been introduced by persons retaining the name of Catholics, and renouncing the principles of that religion. It has been said that Lords Fingal and Trimblestone are as competent judges of ecclesiastical subjects as the bishops or Pope. According to the principles of the Catholic church, no individual has a right to interpret the Scriptures, save in the sense of that church; nor to act or decide in matters of religious concern, otherwise than according to ecclesiastical laws and discipline. This is the doctrine of the church; any individual denying this doctrine ceases to be a Catholic.' Mr. O'D. 'I differ with you; it is no such thing.' Mr. C. 'Sir, I have taken some pains to acquire a competent knowledge of the religion, which, as a pastor, I am bound to teach; I have taken more pains in that way than you have, and I believe I am not overrating my slender powers by saying that I am as capable of acquiring knowledge as you are. You will therefore allow me to state those principles. If you dissent from the tenets of the Catholic church, you have a right to separate from her communion. But you have no right to impugn those tenets in the face of a Catholic congregation, and to the obstruction of their pastor.' Here the dialogue ceased.
During the Commonwealth, the Rev. Mr. Harrison, of Sandwich, was summoned before the Sequestrators, but refused to attend. On the Sunday following, while he was engaged in the prayer before sermon, an officer entered the church with a file of soldiers, and commanded him to descend from the pulpit, which he did not regard, but continued to pray quite unconcerned. The officer then gave the word of command to the soldiers to make ready and present; when perceiving the minister still unmoved, he did not venture to give the last word of command, but ordered the soldiers to go and drag him out of the pulpit, which was done immediately, and he was carried in triumph to prison, where he was confined some time.
Chesterfield and Bolingbroke at Church.
The Earl of Chesterfield was induced by the extraordinary accounts which he heard of Whitefield's eloquence to go and hear him preach, taking some friends of the same rank along with him. They were all so much pleased that they expressed to the worthy divine a wish to hear him again the same day. Whitefield says, 'I therefore preached again in the evening, and went home never more surprised at any incident in my life. All behaved quite well, and were in some degree affected. The Earl of Chesterfield thanked me, and said; "Sir, I will not tell you what I shall tell others, how I approve of you."'
At another time, the celebrated Bolingbroke come to hear Mr. Whitefield; sat like an archbishop, and said, the preacher 'had done great justice to the divine attributes in his discourse.'
A strain of preaching prevailed in the seventeenth century, which was called casuistical doctrine, consisting in the solution of particular cases of conscience. Sometimes great acuteness and accuracy were displayed on these occasions; and the principal defect of this system seems to have been that preachers formed their discourses upon ideas of abstract reason, instead of the suggestions of sentiment. Yet so much good effect was produced in this way, that serious and thoughtful men imagined they saw their own cases described in these discourses, and thought - and often justly thought -themselves greatly edified. Dr. Sanderson, a learned and worthy man, and one of the chaplains to Charles the First, was an able divine of this sort. The king used to say that 'he carried his ears to hear the preachers; but he carried his conscience to hear Dr. Sanderson.'
Borrowing a Sermon.
Dr. Adam Ferguson, formerly Professor of Moral Philosophy in the college of Edinburgh, was of a benevolent disposition, and not only assisted his friends with his purse as far as it went, but also with his genius, which was infinitely more extensive. Sometimes he lent or presented sermons to his friends. One of these happened to preach a very profound discourse on the superiority of mental qualifications over external accomplishments, that showed thorough acquaintance with the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle. The clergyman in whose church the divine had delivered the sermon was at first greatly surprised at hearing such observations and arguments from a worthy neighbour, whom he well knew to be totally unacquainted with the philosophy of Plato, or any other ancient or modern. When service was over he paid the young man many high compliments on his discourse, and added, that it really much exceeded the highest expectations he had ever entertained from the talents of the preacher. The gentleman in reply told him honestly that he knew very little about those matters himself, but that he had borrowed the sermon from his friend Adam Ferguson.
A Hit at Metaphysics.
Dr. Stebbing of Gray's Inn, speaking in one of his sermons of Hume, and some other metaphysical writers, said sarcastically: 'Our thoughts are naturally carried back, on this occasion, to the author of the first philosophy, who likewise engaged to open the eyes of the public. He did so; but the only discovery they found themselves able to make was that they were naked.'
Vincent de Paul.
Vincent de Paul, a French Catholic priest, who was born in 1576, early distinguished himself for pulpit oratory, and for his zeal in founding charitable institutions. He successively established a mission for the reformation of galley slaves, a foundling hospital for forsaken children, and a nunnery of nurses, bound by vow to visit and attend the sick poor gratis. He also preached sermons, and obtained collections in behalf of the lunatic asylums at Bicetre and at the Salpetriere; and to the local infirmaries at Marseilles and at Santreine his eloquence rendered repeated and lasting services. Such men are the saints Of humanity, whose memory should be cherished.
Jerome Bolsec, who distinguished himself at Geneva for his opposition to the tenets of Calvin, delivered on one occasion a violent discourse against the doctrine of predestination. Calvin was among his auditors; but hiding himself in the crowd, was not noticed by Bolsec, which probably made him the bolder. As soon as Bolsec had ended his discourse, Calvin stood up, and confuted all he had been saying. 'He answered, overset, and confounded him,' says Beza, 'with so many testimonies from the word of God; with so many passages, chiefly from St. Augustine; in short, with so many solid arguments, that every person was miserably ashamed for him, except the brazen-faced monk himself.' A magistrate who was present, not content with the triumph which Calvin had achieved over Bolsec in argument, was pleased to send the monk to prison. His sentiments were made the subject of a serious judicial inquiry; and at last, with the advice of the Swiss churches, the senate of Geneva declared Bolsec convicted of sedition and Pelagianism, and as such, banished him from the territory of the republic, on pain of being whipped if he should return thither.
George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, attending divine service at Nottingham, and hearing the preacher observe that all doctrine must be from the Holy Scriptures, exclaimed, 'No; doctrine comes not merely from the Scriptures, but also from the Holy Ghost, who is the light that enlightens man.' He was about to continue, but he was stopped and conveyed to prison. The confusion which this circumstance occasioned prevented the magistrates from repressing the multitude, who attacked Fox with stones and sticks all the way.
Patrick Forbes, the Lord of Corse and Bishop of Aberdeen, did not enter the ministry until he was forty-eight years of age. He had long before made himself conspicuous, by the encouragement which he held out to able and pious ministers, and the instructions which, notwithstanding his being a layman, he personally delivered to the people in occasional discourses, as well as by the conferences which he held for the conversion of Roman Catholics, who would hear nothing from the pulpit. When he became Bishop of Aberdeen, he was not only careful to fix worthy clergymen in his diocese, but used to make frequent visitations to inquire into their conduct and manners. 'When he was told of the negligence or weakness of any of his clergy, he would,' says Burnet, 'go and lodge near his church upon Saturday in the evening, without making himself known, and the next day, when he was in the pulpit, he would go and hear him, that by this he might be able to judge what his common sermons were, and as they appeared to him he encouraged or admonished them.'
Bishop Burnet, in his charges to the clergy of his diocese, used to be extremely vehement in his exclamations against pluralities. In his first visitation to Salisbury, he urged the authority of St. Bernard; who being consulted by one of his followers whether he might accept of two benefices, replied, 'And how will you be able to serve them both?' 'I intend,' answered the priest, 'to officiate in one of them by a deputy.' 'Will your deputy suffer eternal punishment for you too?' asked the saint. 'Believe me, you may serve your cure by proxy, but you must suffer the penalty in person.' This anecdote made such an impression on Mr. Kelsey, a pious and worthy clergyman then present, that he immediately resigned the rectory of Bemerton, in Berkshire, worth two hundred a year, which he then held with one of great value.
The celebrated French preacher, Claude, though elegant and impressive, had not a pleasing voice; whence Morris wittily observed that 'all voices were for him except his own.' The last sermon which Claude preached was at the Hague on Christmas Day, 1686, before the Princess of Orange, who is said to have been greatly affected. A few days after he was seized with an illness, which carried him off, January 13, 1687.
Sharp, Archbishop of York.
Dr. Sharp, who was afterwards Archbishop of York, when nominal chaplain to James II., preached at London a sermon against Popery in 1686. As he descended from the pulpit, a paper was put into his hand containing an argument for the right of the Church of Rome to the title of the only visible Catholic Church. This he answered from the pulpit on the following Sunday. The circumstance came to the ears of the king, whose inclination to Popery is well known. His majesty was greatly incensed, and sent a mandate to Dr. Crompton, Bishop of London, for the suspension of Dr. Sharp from preaching in any church or chapel in his diocese, until he had given satisfaction for his offence. This the bishop refused to do; but admonished the doctor to intermit the exercise of his functions for the present, and go down to his deanery at Norwich, which he did accordingly.
The celebrated Saurin, when one of the pastors to the French refugees at the Hague, was so celebrated for his preaching that he was constantly attended by a crowded and brilliant audience. His style was pure, unaffected, and eloquent, sometimes plain, and sometimes flowery, but never improper. 'In the introduction to his sermons,' says Mr. Robinson, 'he used to deliver himself in a tone modest and low; in the body of the sermon, which was adapted to the understanding, he was plain, clear, and argumentative; pausing at the close of each period, that he might discover by the countenances and motions of his hearers, whether they were convinced by his reasoning. In his addresses to the wicked (and it is a folly to preach as if there were none in our assemblies) M. Saurin was often sonorous, but oftener a weeping suppliant at their feet. In the one he sustained the authoritative dignity of his office, in the other he expressed his master's and his own benevolence to bad men, "praying them in Christ's sake to be reconciled to God." In general, his preaching resembled a plentiful shower of dew, softly and imperceptibly insinuating itself into the minds of his numerous hearers, as the dew into the pores of plants, till all the church was dissolved, and all in tears under his sermons.'
Dean Boys, the author of the 'Postils,' was what is termed in his days, 'a painful preacher,' one who in preaching was frequent and laborious, as his works testify, which were all delivered originally from the pulpit. The great object against which he directed his preaching, was popery, which he assailed both with argument and ridicule. In a sermon delivered on the Gunpowder Plot, he introduced the following paraphrase on the Lord's Prayer, in Latin, addressed to the Pope. 'Papa noster qui es Romae, maledicitur nomen tuum, intereat regnum tuum, impediatur voluntas tua, sicut in caelo sic et in terra. Potum nostrum in caena dominica da nobis hodie, et remitte nummos nostros quos tibi dedimus ob indulgentias, et ne nos inducas in haeresin sed libera nos a miseria quoniam tuam est infernum pix et sulphur in saecula secolorum.' Granger gives this prayer in English, as if Dr. Boys had used it in that language; and conceiving it to be the doctor's own, he adds, 'he gained great applause by turning the Lord's Prayer into an execration.' The fact is, he only quoted it, saying, 'I have another prayer, and for as much as it is in Latin,' &c. A copy of this prayer occurs in a MS. of Sir Henry Fines, who says he found it in an old book.
Frederick the Great.
A Prussian divine near Stettin, shocked at the liberty of conscience allowed by Frederick the Great, preached a sermon on Herod, in which he introduced a few hints against his sovereign. The king being informed of it, ordered the preacher to be brought to Potsdam, and summoned him to appear before the consistory, although there was then no such court in existence. The poor man was brought before the king, who had taken the robe and band of a preacher; Baron Polnitz and XL d'Argens being dressed in the same way. The accused was introduced between two grenadiers; when the king addressed him: 'My brother,' said he, 'in the name of the king, I ask you on what Herod you have been preaching?' He answered, 'Upon the Herod who ordered all the little children to be slaughtered.' 'I asked you,' added the king, 'whether it was Herod the first of that name, for you must know there have been several?' The poor priest could not reply. 'How, sir,' said the king, 'dare you preach on Herod and not know of what family he was? You are unworthy of the functions you discharge. We grant you pardon this time; but know, that we shall excommunicate you if ever you dare in future to preach about a person with whom you are not acquainted.' They then delivered his sentence, and granted his pardon.
'The eccentric Daniel Burgess was succeeded in the pulpit which he filled in London (New Court, Carey Street) by the equally eccentric Thomas Bradbury, or as he was familiarly called, Tom Bradbury. He indulged in the same comic style of preaching as Burgess, carrying it even some degrees higher in extravagance; and had the like fortune of becoming the jest of the town. Mr. N. Neal, in a letter to Dr. Doddridge, says, 'I have seen Mr. Bradbury's sermons, just published, the nonsense and buffoonery of which would make one laugh, if his impious insults over the pious dead did not make one tremble.' It seems generally allowed, that though a sincere and a good man, his fancy gave so whimsical a direction to his zeal, as to be productive of much injury to the interests of religion. Of his fifty-four sermons extant, the greater part are on political subjects: and it was as smartly as justly observed of them at the time of publication, that 'from the great number of sacred texts applied to the occasion, one would imagine the Bible was written only to confirm by divine authority, the benefits accruing to this nation from the accession of William III.'
Bradbury differed on not a few points with his clerical brethren; and among others, used to make it his business to lampoon and satirize the hymns and psalms of Dr. Watts. It is said, that whenever he gave out one of the former, it was in this style: ' Let us sing one of Watts's hymns.'
When Bradbury first commenced preacher, he was but a lad, being only eighteen years of age; and on account of his juvenile appearance, was subjected to some ridicule. It did not, however, daunt him; and Tom Bradbury soon convinced his hearers that he was a boy only in appearance. His success in conquering the prejudices excited by his youth, was an era in his life; and ever after he used to 'bless God, that from that hour he had never known the fear of man.'
The Pastor Restored.
Peter du Bosc, who was esteemed the greatest preacher in his time among the Protestants of France, became so famous throughout the whole kingdom, that a deputation was sent from Paris to Cam, the place of his ministry, to invite him to accept of the church of Charenton; but though the application was supported by letters of solicitation from persons of the greatest eminence, nothing could induce Du Bosc to leave his flock at Caen, to whom he had become much endeared. Some years after, in consequence of having preached disrespectfully of auricular confession, an order was procured for his banishment to Chalons. As he passed through Paris on his way to the place of his banishment, he made such an explanation of his offence to M. le Trellier, as, after the lapse of some months, led to a recall of the sentence against him. The joy which his return gave to the people of Caen, was excessive ; even those of opposite sentiments concurred in congratulating him; and among others, a Catholic gentleman of some distinction, who was besides pleased to celebrate the event in the following extraordinary manner. 'A gentleman,' says Du Bose's biographer, ' of distinction in the province, whose life was not very regular, but who made open profession of loving those pastors who had particular talents, and seemed particularly enamoured with the merit of M. du Bosc, having a mind to solemnize the occasion with a feast, took two Cordeliers, whom he knew to be honest fellows, and made them drink so much, that one of them died on the spot. He went to see M. du Bosc the next day, and told him that he thought himself obliged to sacrifice a monk to the public joy; that the sacrifice would have been a Jesuit, but that the offering ought not to displease him, though it was but of a Cordelier!'
Mr. Reynolds, a minister in Devonshire, had a great number of Cromwell's soldiers quartered at his house. These one day obliged him to preach before them, when he so happily mingled the wisdom of the serpent, with the innocence of the dove, and preached with so much caution and honesty, that the captain threw up his commission, and quitted the service; and the rest of the soldiers were so pleased, that they released the minister from maintaining them any longer, and sought fresh quarters elsewhere.
The Bastille, or a Bishopric.
The Abbe Beauvais preaching before Louis XV., resolved, if possible, either to get into a bishopric or into the Bastille. He thundered from the pulpit against the scandalous life of the monarch, and alluded, in terms that could not be misunderstood, to his connexion with Madame Du Barry. This lady, knowing her portrait, entreated the king to punish him; but he observed, with his usual mildness of disposition, that a preacher could not always be answerable for the application which his auditors might make. Madame Du Barry, however, the same evening, wrote the following letter to the Abbe:
You have preached a very insolent discourse to-day. In the room of using charity and moderation in your sermon, you had the audacity to reflect upon his majesty's way of life in the very face of his people. You made your attack upon him only, though you ought to have used gentleness towards him, and have excused his frailties to his subjects. I do not think you were moved by a spirit of Christian charity, but excited by a lust of ambition, and a fondness for grandeur; these were the motives of your conduct. Were I in his majesty's place, you should be banished to some obscure village, and there taught to be more cautious, and not to endeavour to raise the people to rebel against the ruler God has put over them. I cannot say what the king may do, but you have presumed too much on his goodness. You did not expect from me a lesson for your conduct. drawn from the Christian doctrine and morality; but I would advise you, for your own good, to pay attention to it. I am, &C.,
'THE COUNTESS Du BARRY.'
One of the first ministers who fell under persecution in the reign of Charles the First, was Dr. Layfield, the archdeacon of Essex, and vicar of All Hallows, in London. He was seized while performing divine service, dragged from the pulpit, and out of the church. They then set him on horseback, with his surplice on; tied the Common Prayer Book about his neck; and in this manner forced him to ride through several streets in the City of London, while the mob followed, hooting at him all the time. After being successively confined in most of the jails in London, and enduring twenty years' persecution with great courage and resolution, he was restored to his church benefices with additional preferment.
Mr. Symmons, an ejected minister in the time of the Commonwealth, gives a singular account of the accusations made against him by Parliament, before whom he was summoned. 'When I preached against treason, rebellion, and disobedience,' says he, 'then they said no question but I meant Parliament; and afterwards, when I preached against lying, slandering, and malice, this, they said, was against the Parliament too; and got me to be sent for up again by a pursuivant about the same. Nay, when I did but quote those words of our Saviour, "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth unto death, and many go therein," this, they said, was against the Parliament, because the major part of the people in those parts were for the same. When I quoted that passage in the 120th Psalm, where David says that "he was for peace, but others were for war; when he spake of that, they made them ready for battle;" this, they said, was for the king, and against the Parliament. When I preached against vainglory, upon those words of our Saviour, "I seek not the praise of men," they said I preached against a particular member, when I protest I never thought of him all the while I was upon that subject (that I know of), save only when I prayed for my enemies.'
When Mr. Travers, a Nonconformist minister, had been ejected from his living of Brixham, a gentleman procured him the liberty of preaching at a little place near Brentford, in Middlesex, which he did without receiving any emolument. The gentleman meeting him some time after, inquired what he had for supplying the cure; to which Mr. Travers readily answered that he had very much; 'For,' said he, 'I never preached to a more attentive people in my life.' 'But,' said the gentleman, 'What do they pay you?' Mr. Travers said Sir J. Harvey thrice invited him to dinner; and being told that was no maintenance, 'Sir,' said Mr. Travers, 'I thank God and you that I may preach the gospel; I have dined to-day, and God will provide for tomorrow.' Although Mr. Travers is described as at that time very meanly dressed, 'with a few buttons to his doublet, and a blue leather point to keep the sole and the overleather of one of his shoes together,' yet he was always cheerful, and displayed resignation and content both in his countenance and actions.
Notwithstanding the almost universal servility of the French clergy previous to the French revolution, there were still found men, even among the highest dignitaries of the church, who thundered from the pulpit declamations which shook the very foundations of the court.
In the Gazette de France, March 28, 1780, we are told that 'there was no sermon on Holy Thursday before the king; for the Abbe d'Espagnac, who was to have preached that day, found himself suddenly indisposed at the moment he was stepping into the pulpit, and rendered incapable of delivering his discourse.' Such is the account given of the failure of this sermon; but the secret fact is, that at the moment the Abbe was going to ascend the pulpit, an officer came to him, and informed him, that as the king knew that he was not well, he excused him from performing his duty. The eloquent orator, who did not at first understand the kind anxiety of the king, assured the messenger that he was very sensible of his majesty's attention, but that he was very well. The officer, perceiving the honest simplicity of our Abbe, was obliged to explain himself in more direct terms; and leading him to a post-chaise, made him return to Paris.
The Abbe was a young man of considerable talents, who sought celebrity by the boldness of his opinions. Several days before Lent, the king had said, 'We heard last year a very unchristian sermon (the Abbe Rousseau's) but this year we shall not, certainly.' This hint was gently given to the Abbe by the courtiers; but he was resolute, and would not be intimidated. The Archbishop of Paris and the great Almoner were appointed to examine his sermon before it was preached. They found that it did not at all touch on the mystery of that day, but on a matter most irrelevant, on a parallel between royalty and despotism. Fearful that this might produce a disagreeable sensation, they informed the Count de Maurepas, who, to save himself a direct refusal to the orator, fell upon the expedient which we have above related.
A preacher who had but one sermon, which he had delivered on the Sunday, being praised by the lord of the place, was called upon to preach on the next day, which was a fast day. The preacher ruminated the whole night on what he was to do to rescue himself from the predicament in which he was placed. The dreaded hour arrived, when he mounted the pulpit, and with great solemnity said, 'Brethren, some persons have accused me of advancing propositions to you yesterday, contrary to the faith, and of having misrepresented many passages of Scripture. Now, to convince you how much I have been wronged, and to make known to you the purity of my doctrine, I shall repeat my sermon, so pray be attentive.'
Bishop of Aeth.
Maboul, the Bishop of Aeth, in France, was an eminent preacher, and particularly celebrated for the excellence of his funeral orations. They are distinguished throughout by that sweetness of style, that nobleness of sentiment, that elevation, that unction, and that touching simplicity, which are, the characteristics of a good mind, and of true genius. 'The Bishop of Aeth,' says a French critic, 'did not possess the masculine vigour of Bossuet, but he is more correct, and more polished. Less profound and more brilliant than Flechier, he is, at the same time, more impressive and more affectionate. If he introduces antitheses, they are those of things, and not of words. More equal than Mascaron, he has the taste, the graces, the ease, and the interesting manner of father La Rue.'
Shortening a Discourse.
On St. James's day, a monk had to pronounce a panegyric on the saint. As he was rather late, the priests, who feared he would make a long sermon, entreated him to abridge it. The monk then mounted the pulpit, and addressing his congregation, said, 'My brethren, twelve months ago I preached an eulogy on the saint whose festival you this day celebrate. As I doubt not but you were all then very attentive to me, and as I have not learnt that he has done anything new since, I have nothing to add to what I said at that time.' He then pronounced the benediction, and descended from the pulpit.
A Voluminous Preacher.
Archbishop Usher used to call Dr. Manton, a Nonconformist preacher of the seventeenth century, a voluminous preacher, meaning, that he had the art of compressing the substance of volumes of divinity into a narrow compass. The expression was certainly more applicable to him in the literal meaning of the words; for his sermons fill five large volumes in folio, one of which contains one hundred and ninety pages on the 119th Psalm. The task of reading these sermons to his aunt, had an unhappy effect on the mind of Lord Bolingbroke. In a letter to Dean Swift, he says, 'My next shall be as long as one of Dr. Manton's sermons, who taught my youth to yawn, and prepared me to be a high Churchman, that I might never hear him read, nor read him more.'
Failure of Memory.
A French preacher, whose memory was very deficient, stopped in the middle of his sermon, and was unable to proceed with the subject. This awkward pause was, however, very ingeniously got over. 'Friends,' said he to his auditors, 'I had forgot to say, that a person much afflicted is recommended to your immediate prayers; let us, therefore, say one Pater.' He immediately fell an his knees, and before he got up again, had recovered the thread of his discourse, which he concluded without any one perceiving his want of memory.
A student of Cambridge observing a multitude flock to a village church on a working day, enquired what was the cause. On being informed that one Bunyan, a tinker, was to preach there, he gave a boy a few halfpence to hold his horse, resolved, as he said, to hear the tinker prate. The tinker prated to such effect, that, for some time, the scholar wished to hear no other preacher; and through his future life, gave proofs of the advantages he had received from the humble ministry of the author of the 'Pilgrim's Progress.'
Bunyan, with rude, but irresistible zeal, preached throughout the country, and formed the greater part of the Baptist churches in Bedfordshire; until on the Restoration he was thrown into prison, where he remained twelve years. During his confinement, he preached to all to whom he could gain access; and when liberty was offered to him, on condition of promising to abstain from preaching, he constantly replied, 'If you let me out to-day, I shall preach again tomorrow.'
Bunyan, on being liberated, became pastor of the Baptist Church at Bedford; and when the kingdom enjoyed a portion of religious liberty, he enlarged the sphere of his usefulness, by preaching every year in London, where he excited great attention. On one day's notice, such multitudes would assemble, that the places of worship could not hold them. 'At a lecture at seven o'clock in the dark mornings of winter,' says one of Bunyan's contemporaries, 'I have seen about twelve hundred; and I computed about three thousand that came to hear him on a Lord's day so that one half of them were obliged to return for want of room.'
It used to be said of Dr. Chandler, that after any illness, he always preached in a more evangelical strain than usual. A gentleman who occasionally heard him, said to one of his constant auditors, 'Pray, has not the doctor been ill lately?' 'Why do you think so?' 'Because the sermon was more evangelical than those he usually preaches when he is in full health.'
Avoiding a Difficulty.
When Mr. Job Orton, a dissenting minister at Shrewsbury, was preaching from Isaiah, ix. 6, his more orthodox hearers, who had doubts concerning his belief of the divinity of Christ, were all attention, in hopes of hearing their pastor's real sentiments. They were, however, disappointed, for when he came to the words, 'the mighty God,' all he said was, 'the meaning of this I cannot tell; and how should I, when his name is called wonderfull?'
Dr. Guyse was blind in the latter part of his life, but he still determined to preach. After the morning service of the first day, an old lady of his congregation, enraptured with his discourse, followed him into the vestry after the service was over, and exclaimed, 'Doctor, I wish you had been blind these twenty years, for you never preached so good a sermon in your life as you have done to-day.' The remark was not wholly without foundation, for the doctor had been accustomed to read his sermons; but when he preached extemporaneously, his delivery was more animated, and more natural.
The ardent and benevolent zeal which distinguished the whole life of George Whitefield, prompted him to a new and hazardous effort to do good. It had been the custom for many years, to erect booths in Moorfields for mountebanks and puppetshows, which attracted immense crowds, to keep a kind of fair during the Easter and Whitsuntide holidays. Whitefield, who had long viewed this as the 'vanity fair' described by his favourite Bunyan, determined to intrude on the sports by preaching in the midst of the fair. On Whit Monday, at six o'clock in the morning, he marched forth to the assault of this stronghold of Satan, and mounting a pulpit which some of his friends had prepared for him, he took for his text, 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' His words seemed to fly like pointed arrows from a bow of steel. The gazing crowd was hushed to solemn silence, and many were in tears.
'Being thus encouraged,' says Whitefield 'I ventured out again at noon, when the' fields were quite full, and I could scarcely help smiling, to see thousands, when a Merry Andrew was trumpeting to them, upon observing me to mount a stand on the other side of the field, deserting him, till not so much as one was left behind, but all flocked to hear the gospel. This, together with a complaint that they had taken near twenty or thirty pounds less that day than usual, so enraged the owners of the booths, that when I came to preach a third time, in the evening, in the midst of the sermon, a Merry Andrew got up on a man's shoulders, and advancing towards the pulpit, attempted to slash me with a long heavy whip several times. Soon after, they got a recruiting sergeant, with his drum, to pass through the congregation. But I desired the people to make way for the king's officer, which was quietly done. Finding these efforts fail, a large body, quite on the opposite side, assembled together; and having got a great pole for their standard, advanced with sound of drum in a very threatening manner, till they came near the skirts of the congregation. Uncommon courage was given both to preacher and hearers. I prayed for support and deliverance, and I was heard. For just as they approached us, with looks full of resentment, I know not by what circumstance, they quarrelled among themselves threw down their staff, leaving, however, many of their company behind, who, before we had done, were brought over, I trust, to join the besieged party.
'I think I continued praying and preaching and singing (for the noise was too great at times to preach) above three hours. We then retired to the Tabernacle, where thousands flocked. We had determined to pray down the booths; but, blessed be God, more substantial work was done. At a moderate computation, I received, I believe, a thousand notes from persons under conviction; and soon after, upwards of three hundred were received into the society in one day. Numbers that seemed, as it were, to have been bred up for Tyburn, were at that time plucked as brands out of the burning.'
The ardent zeal of the eccentric Mr. Thomas Bradbury exposed him to hatred; and his grandson, Dr. Robert Winter, relates, that a person was once employed to take away his life. To make himself fully acquainted with Mr. Bradbury's person, the man frequently attended places of worship where he preached, placed himself in the front of the gallery, with his countenance steadily fixed on the preacher. It was scarcely possible, under such circumstances, wholly to avoid listening to what was said. Mr. Bradbury's forcible manner of presenting divine truth to view, awakened the man's attention, and became the means, not only of withdrawing him from his purpose, but of reforming him. He came to the preacher with trembling and confusion, told his affecting tale, gave evidence of his conversion, and became a member and ornament of the church.
Funeral Sermon of Dr. Priestley.
On the death of Dr. Priestley, his brother Timothy, of London, a clergyman of very different religious sentiments, preached a funeral sermon for him, in which he said, 'Curiosity has brought numbers to hear what I say of his eternal state. This I say, not one in heaven, nor on the road to that happy world, will be more glad to find him there, than myself. When I consider that the praise of glory, of free grace, is that which God principally designs, and that we find in divine revelation, some of the chiefest offenders have been singled out, and made monuments of mercy, such as Manasseh, Paul, and others; and also that he who can create the world in a moment, and raise the dead in a twinkling of an eye, can make a change in any man in one moment; here, and here alone, are founded my hopes.'
The Scottish reformer, John Knox, in one of his sermons exclaimed, that 'One mass was more frightful to him, than ten thousand enemies landed in any part of the realm.' This gave much offence to Queen Mary; but she was soon afterwards prevailed on to hear him preach, when be took for his text this passage of Isaiah, '0 Lord, other lords than thou have reigned over us.' In the course of his sermon, in speaking of the government of wicked princes, he said, 'that they were sent as tyrants and scourgers to the people for their sins,' adding, that 'God sets occasionally boys and women over a nation, to punish them for their crimes and other ingratitude.'
Dr. Fordyce raised his character very high for talents and eloquence, by a sermon which he preached when a young man, before the general assembly of the church of Scotland, 'On the folly, infamy, and misery of unlawful pleasures;' was afterwards invited to London; where succeeding to a pastoral charge, his congregation increased very rapidly, and he drew around him a multitude of genteel hearers, particularly young gentlemen and ladies of the first respectability in the city. To these he considered it his business to preach, and he framed his sermons in a manner which he conceived to be particularly adapted to the circumstances.
The eloquence of the pulpit was the doctor's darling study and pursuit; and whatever could give it effect, both in sentiment and composition, he carefully sought. He was not less attentive to the charms of elocution; and whatever the graces of gesture and action could impart, he sought to give his sermons.
In the reign of James the First, a person of the name of Richard Haydock, of New College in Oxford, practised physic in the day, and preached in the night in bed, as he pretended, by revelation; for he would take a text in his sleep, and deliver a good sermon from it; and notwithstanding the interruption of his auditors, would pertinaciously persist to the end, and sleep on. The fame of this sleeping preacher coming to the king's knowledge, he sent for him to court, where he sat up one night to hear him; and when the time came that the preacher thought fit to appear asleep, he began with a prayer; then took a text of Scripture, on which he dwelt a short time, and then made a digression to attack the Pope, the cross in baptising the last canons of the church of England, and so concluded sleeping. The king the next morning, suspecting the imposture, sent for Haydock, and obtained a confession of the cheat, which he said was to bring him into notice, as he considered himself buried in the University. The king after his public recantations, pardoned him, and gave him preferment in the church.
Funeral Sermon for Cromwell.
On the death of Oliver Cromwell, a funeral sermon was preached at Christ Church, Dublin, before the lord deputy, by his chaplain, Dr. Harrison, from these words:- 'And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for him.' 2 Chron. xx. v. 24. 'This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation,' Ezek. xix. v. 14. The sermon, which was full of the praises of Cromwell, was afterwards published by one Edward Matthews, under the title of I Threni Hybernici; or, Ireland Sympathizing with England and Scotland, in a Sad Lamentation for Her Josiah.' The sermon was dedicated to Richard in the most fulsome language, Cromwell, by Edward Matthews. Divine Providence,' he says, 'made it my lot to hear this sermon pathetically delivered by that pious divine, Dr. Harrison, in a full fluent manner, extracting tears from the eyes, and sighs from the hearts of the hearers. I moved the doctor for the printing thereof, being so precious a piece, touching so unparalleled a person, that it was more fit to be made public, than perish in oblivion; who in a modest manner termed it a sudden imperfect and unpolished collection of scattered thoughts and notes, which brevity of time, and burthen of spirit, would not permit him more completely to compile. The usefulness of the piece, replete with so many observations, together with the desire of erecting all lasting monuments that might lead to the eternizing of the blessed memory of that thrice-renowned patron and pattern of piety, your royal father (whose pious life is his never-perishing pyramid, every man's heart being his tomb, every good man's tongue an epitaph), hath emboldened me in all humility, to present it to your highness as a lively effigy to mind you of his matchless virtues. And as the learned author intended it not so much for the eye or ear, as for the heart; not for only reading, but practice principally; so may your highness please to make use thereof as a pattern of imitation for piety and reformation in the nations.'
Dr. Sacheverell, a man of slender talents, forced himself into popularity and preferment by two political sermons preached at Derby and St. Paul's, in 1705, and for which he was impeached in the House of Commons. He was sentenced to a suspension from preaching for three years, and his two sermons ordered to be burnt. He afterwards was preferred to a valuable living: and his reputation was so high, that he was enabled to sell the first sermon preached after his sentence expired for £100; and upwards of forty thousand copies of it were soon sold.
Mr. Howe, the nonconformist minister, previous to his becoming chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, was minister of Great Torrington in Devonshire. His labours here were characteristic of the times. On the public fasts, it was his common way to begin about nine in the morning with a prayer for about a quarter of an hour, in which he begged a blessing on the work of the day; and afterwards read or expounded a chapter or psalm, in which he spent about three-quarters of an hour; then prayed an hour; preached another hour; and prayed again for half an hour. After this, he retired, and took a little refreshment for a quarter of an hour or more, the people singing all the while. He then returned to the pulpit, prayed for another hour, gave them another sermon of about an hour's length; and so concluded the service of the day, about four o'clock in the evening, with half an hour or more of prayer.
Messrs. Bogue and Bennett, the joint historians of the dissenters, express a very high opinion of Mr. Howe. 'A young minister,' they say, 'who wishes to obtain eminence in his profession, if he has not the works of John Howe, and can procure them in no other way, should sell his coat and buy them; and if that will not suffice, let him sell his bed too, and lie on the floor; and if he spends his days in reading them, he will not complain that he lies hard at night.'
'An odd circumstance,' says Wesley in his journal, 'occurred at Rotherham, during the morning preaching. It was well, only serious people were present. An ass walked gravely in at the gate, came up to the door of the house, lifted up his head, and stood stock still in a posture of deep attention. Might not the dumb beast reprove many, who have far less decency, and not much more understanding?'
St. Francis, who was accustomed to all sorts of congregations, would have preached to the Rotherham ass; and if there is any truth in his historian, the ass would have understood him. Mr. Wesley, perhaps, was not aware that this animal is a lover of eloquence. If we may reason, like Darwin, upon a single case, Ammonianus, the grammarian, Origen's master, had an ass that attended his lectures, asinum habuit sapientia auditore in.
Mr. (afterwards Bishop) Watson preached the Restoration and Accession Sermons before the University of Cambridge in 1776. He afterwards published them both, and called the first, 'The Principles of the Revolution Vindicated.' 'This sermon,' he says, 'was written with great caution, and at the same time with boldness and respect for truth. In London it was reported, at its first coming out, to be treasonable; and a friend of mine, Mr. Wilson (the late judge), who was anxious for my safety, asked Mr. Dunning, afterwards Lord Ashburton, what he thought of it; who told him that it contained just such treason as ought to be preached once a month at St. James's.
'On the first publication of this sermon, I was much abused by the ministerial writers as a man of republican principles. I did not deign to give any answer to the calumny, except by printing on a blank page, in subsequent editions of it, the following interpretation of the terms from Bishop Hoadly's works:- Men of republican principles - a sort of dangerous men, who have lately taken heart, and defended the revolution that saved us.
The bishop was afterwards more successful in pleasing the court, as he relates in a subsequent part of his Memoirs. He says, 'In January, 1793, I published a sermon, entitled, 'The Wisdom and Goodness of God in having made both Rich and Poor;' with an appendix, respecting the then circumstances of Great Britain and France. A strong spirit of insubordination and discontent was at that time prevalent in Great Britan; the common people were, in every village, talking about liberty and equality, without understanding the terms. I thought it not improper to endeavour to abate this revolutionary ferment, by informing the understandings of those who excited it. The king, at his levee, complimented me in the warmest terms, in the hearing of the then Lord Dartmouth, on, he was pleased to say, the conciseness, clearness, and utility of this little publication: and the then Archbishop of Canterbury afterwards informed me, that his majesty had spoken to him of the publication in the same terms, two months before. On this occasion, when the king was praising what I had written, I said to him, "I love to come forward in a moment of danger." His reply was so quick and proper, that I will put it down:- "I see you do, and it is a mark of a man of high spirit."'
Luther was particularly severe against, and denounced, all preachers that aimed at sublimity, difficulty, and eloquence; and neglecting the care of the souls of the poor, seek their own praise and honour, and to 'please one or two persons of consequence.' 'When a man comes into the pulpit for the first time,' says he, 'he is much perplexed at the number of heads that are before him. When I stand in the pulpit, I see no heads, but imagine those that are before me to be all blocks. When I preach, I sink myself deeply down; I regard neither doctors nor master, of which there are in the church about forty. But I have an eye to the multitude of young people, children, and servants, of which there are more than two thousand. I preach to them, and direct my discourse to those that have need of it. A preacher should be a logician and a rhetorician; that is, be must be able to teach and to admonish. When he preaches upon any article, he must first distinguish it, then define, describe, and show what it is; thirdly, he must produce sentences from the Scripture to prove and strengthen it: fourthly, he must explain it by examples; fifthly, he must adorn it with similitudes; and lastly, he must admonish and rouse the indolent, correct the disobedient, and reprove the authors of false doctrine.'
A French preacher who was called little Father Andre, was called by his bishop le petit fallot. Having to preach before the prelate, Andre determined to notice this, and took for his text, 'Ye are the light of the world.' Then addressing himself to the bishop, he said, 'Vous etes, monseigneur, le grand fallot ne sommes que de petits de l'eglis, no us allots.'
The same Father Andre preaching before an archbishop, perceived him to be asleep during the sermon, and thought of the following method to awake him. Turning to the beadle of the church, he said in a loud voice, 'Shut the doors, the shepherd is asleep, and the sheep are going out, to whom I am announcing the word of God.' This sally caused a stir in the audience, which awoke the archbishop.
Being once to announce a collection for a young lady to enable her to take the veil, he said, before the commencement of his sermon, Friends, I recommend to your charity a young lady, who has not enough to enable her to make a vow of poverty.'
Preaching during the whole of Lent in a town where he was never invited to dine, he said in his farewell sermon, 'I have preached against every vice except that of good living, which, I believe, is not to be found among you, and therefore needed not my reproach.'
Sleeping at Church.
Launcelot Andrewes, afterwards Bishop of Winchester, was a fellow of Pembroke Hall. 'There was then at Cambridge,' says Aubrey, in his MS. notes, 'a good fat alderman, that was wont to sleep at church, which he endeavoured to prevent, but could not. Well, this was preached against, as a mark of reprobation. The good man was exceedingly troubled at it; and went to Mr. Andrewes's chamber to be satisfied in point of conscience. Mr. Andrewes told him it was an ill habit of body, not of mind, and advised him on Sundays to make a sparing meal at dinner, and to make up at supper. The alderman did so; but sleep comes on him again for all that, and he was preached against. He comes again to Mr. Andrewes with tears in his eyes, to be resolved; who then told him. that he would have him make a full hearty meal, as he was used to do, and presently after take out his full sleep. The alderman followed his advice, and came to St. Mary's Church the Sunday afterwards, where the preacher was provided with a sermon to condemn all those who slept at that godly exercise, as a mark of reprobation. The good alderman having taken Mr. Andrewes's advice looks at the preacher all the sermon time, and spoils his design. Mr. Andrewes was extremely spoken of and preached against, for offering to excuse a sleeper in sermon time; but he had learning and wit enough to defend himself.'
Revocation of the Edict of Nantz.
When it became evident that the King of France intended to revoke the edict of Nantz, the ministers of the church of Charenton kept many days of solemn fasting and prayer. On one of these occasions, when they had been engaged all day in exercises of devotion, an eminent minister ascended the pulpit, and in a lively manner set before the people the danger of the Ark of God. His heart was so full, that he could not go on; and there were floods of tears shed, and an universal outcry throughout the assembly. After a considerable pause, he resumed the discourse, but was again interrupted by excess of sorrow, upon which he turned his discourse into prayer, and with great fervour interceded for the mercy of God, acknowledged his justice in whatever he should bring upon them, and by a very solemn resignation, laid themselves and all their privileges at his feet, begging that if he saw it for his own honour to suffer the bodies of that generation to fall in the wilderness, he would revive his work in the next; to which the whole congregation gave their assent by a loud Amen.
A Sermon for Cardinals.
Whiston relates, that a learned friar in Italy, famous for his learning and preaching, was commanded to preach before the Pope at a year of jubilee; and in order to suit his sermon better, he repaired to Rome a good while before, to see the fashion of the conclave. When the day that he was to preach arrived, after ending his prayer, he looked for some time silently about, and at last cried out with a loud voice, three times, 'St. Peter was a fool! St. Peter was a fool! St. Peter was a fool!' and without adding a word more, descended from the pulpit. Being afterwards summoned before the Pope, and asked why he had so conducted himself? he answered. 'Surely, holy father, if a priest may go to heaven abounding in wealth, honour, and preferment, and live at ease, seldom or never preaching; then, surely, St. Peter was a fool, who took such a hard way in travelling, in fasting, in preaching, to go thither.'
Dean Swift is said to have jocularly remarked, that he never preached but twice in his life, and then they were not sermons, but pamphlets. Being asked upon what subject? he replied, they were against Wood's halfpence. One of these sermons has been preserved, and is from this text, 'As we have the opportunity, let us do good to all men.' Its object was to show the great want of public spirit in Ireland, and to enforce the necessity of practising that virtue. 'I confess, said he, 'it was chiefly the consideration of the great danger we are in, which engaged me to discourse to you on this subject, to exhort you to a love of your country, and a public spirit, when all you have is at stake; to prefer the interest of your prince and your fellow subjects, before that of one destructive impostor, and a few of his adherents.
'Perhaps, it may be thought by some, that this way of discoursing is not so proper from the pulpit; but surely when an open attempt is made, and far carried on, to make a great kingdom one large poor-house; to deprive us of all means to exercise hospitality or charity; to turn our cities and churches into ruins; to make this country a desert for wild beasts and robbers; to destroy all arts and sciences, all trades and manufactures, and the very tillage of the ground, only to enrich one obscure illdesigning projector, and his followers; it is time for the pastor to cry out that the wolf is getting into his flock, to warn them to stand together, and all to consult the common safety. And God be praised for his infinite goodness, in raising such a spirit of union among us at least in this point, in the midst of all our former divisions; which union, if it continues, will in all probability defeat the pernicious design of this pestilent enemy to the nation.'
It will scarcely be credited, that this dreadful description, when stripped of its exaggerations, meant no more than that Ireland might lose about six thousand a year during Wood's patent for coining halfpence.
Few persons ever devoted themselves so completely to the service of the pulpit, as Mr. Duchal, an eminent Irish nonconformist divine of the beginning of the eighteenth century. From his first engaging in the work of the ministry, he applied himself very diligently to the preparation of pulpit compositions, so that he was soon furnished with such a quantity, as might have warranted his devoting a considerable portion of his time to other pursuits. But notwithstanding this, he continued the same practice, and in the last twenty years of his life composed more than seven hundred sermons; a fact which, considering that they were not ordinary compositions, but generally contained a rich variety of instructive and interesting matter, exhibits an instance of industry and zeal which deserves to be recorded.
Great as the industry of Duchal was, it was exceeded by that of the Rev. John Lewis, Vicar of Mynstre, who is said to have composed more than a thousand sermons. Mr. Lewis was so strongly of opinion, that every clergyman should compose his own sermons, that in his will, he gave orders to his executor to destroy the whole of his stock, lest they should contribute to the indolence of others! Surely, however, this was carrying a praiseworthy resolution to excess. Why should any sermon worth remembering be suppressed?
Youth and Age.
One Mr. Knight, a young divine at Oxford, having in the time of James I. advanced in a sermon something which was said to be derogatory to the king's prerogative; for this he was a long time imprisoned, and a regular impeachment was about to be drawn up against him, for preaching treasonable doctrine. At the same period, one Dr. White, a clergyman far advanced in years, was in danger of a prosecution of a similar kind.
Fortunately, however, both gentlemen had a friend in Bishop Williams, then keeper of the seals, who, in order to bring them off, fell upon the following happy contrivance. His majesty had appointed some instructions to be drawn up, under the Lord Keeper's care and direction, for ensuring useful and orderly preaching; and among the provisions which is lordship ordered to be inserted, was one, that no clergyman should be permitted to preach before the age of thirty, nor after threescore. The king on coming to this singular regulation, said, 'On my soul, some fit of madness is in the motion; for I have many great wits, and of clear distillation, that have preached before me at Royston and Newmarket, to my great liking, that are under thirty. And my prelates and chaplains, that are far stricken in years, are the best masters of that faculty that Europe affords.' 'I agree to all this,' answered the Lord Keeper; 'and since your majesty will allow both young and old to go up into the pulpit, it is justice that you show indulgence to the young ones, if they run into errors before their wits be settled; (for every apprentice is allowed to mar some work before he be cunning in the mystery of his trade,) and pity to the old ones, if some of them fall into dotage when their brains grow dry. Will your majesty conceive displeasure, and not lay it down, if the former set your teeth on edge sometimes before they are mellow-wise; and if the doctrine of the latter be touched with a blemish when they begin to be rotten, and to drop from the tree?' 'This is not unfit for consideration,' said the king; 'but what do you drive at?' 'Sir,' replied Williams, 'first to beg your pardon for mine own boldness; then to remember you that Knight is a beardless boy, from whom exactness of judgment could not be expected; and that White is a decrepid, spent man, who had not a fee simple, but a lease of reason, and it is expired. Both these, that have been foolish in their several extremities of years, I prostrate at the feet of your princely clemency.' In consequence of this application, King James readily granted a pardon to both of them.
Sir William Dawes, was appointed chaplain to King William the Third, and a Prebend of Worcester, in consequence of a sermon he preached at Whitehall. He was afterwards chaplain to Queen Anne, and became so great a favourite, that he had reason to look to the highest dignities of the church; and would have been nominated to the see of Lincoln in 1705, had he not incurred the displeasure of some persons in power, by a sermon which he preached before the queen on the 30th of January. They persuaded her majesty, contrary to her inclinations, to give it to Dr. Wake. When Sir William was told by one of the courtiers, that he had lost a bishopric by his preaching, his reply was, 'that as to that he had no manner of concern upon him, because his intention was never to gain one by preaching.' He afterwards was Bishop of Chester, and thence translated to the archiepiscopal see of York. As a preacher, he was the most popular pulpit orator in his day; and this arose not so much from any peculiar merit in his compositions, which were plain and familiar, as from his natural advantages, and judicious management, 'the comeliness of his person, the melody of his voice, the decency of his action, and the majesty of his whole appearance.'
Urban Chevreau, a French historian, tells us. 'When I was young, I remember attending a sermon preached by a prelate, who was celebrated at court for the greatness of his talents. It was on the feast of Mary Magdalen. The bishop having enlarged much on the repentance of Mary, observed, that her tears had opened her the way to heaven; and that she had travelled by water to a place where few other persons had gone by land.' The simile was after the spirit of the age; and the last person whom we should have expected to smile at it, was M. Chevreau, who gravely informs us, in his 'History of the World,' 'that it was created the 6th of September, on a Friday, a little after four O'clock in the afternoon.'
Michael Le Faucheur, a French protestant minister in the seventeenth century, excelled so greatly as a preacher, that he was invited from Montpellier to Charenton, where he was much followed and admired. His discourses contained a happy mixture of solidity and pathos, and were recommended by the charms of an animated and eloquent delivery. He once preached with such energy and weight of reasoning against duelling, that the Marquess de la Force, who was one of his audience, declared in the presence of some military men, that if a challenge were sent to him, he would not accept of it.
One of the first most eminent and most intrepid ministers of the reformed religion, was William Farel, a native of France. He was a man of a bold and undaunted spirit, whom no difficulties could appal, no threatenings of personal inconveniences and hazards deter from propagating what he considered to be the principles of Christian truth and liberty. His learning and knowledge were considerable; his piety was ardent, and his moral conduct unimpeachable and exemplary. He possessed a powerful commanding voice, and a wonderful fluency of language, which peculiarly qualified him for the office of a public disputant, and popular pulpit orator. In these characters his labours produced astonishing effects, and entitled him to the honour of being one of the most successful instruments, as well as one of the first moving causes, of establishing and promoting the reformed religion.
Farel's violence of temper often betrayed itself in his writings, as well as in the pulpit. OEcolampadius, however, succeeded in moderating his spirit by friendly remonstrances. 'Men,' said he in one of his letters to Farel, 'may be led, but will not be driven by force. Give me leave, as a friend, and as a brother to a brother, to say, you do not seem in every respect to remember your duty. You were sent to preach, and not to rail. I excuse, nay, I commend your zeal, so that it be not without meekness. Endeavour, my brother, that this advice may have its desired effect, and I shall have reason to rejoice that I gave it. Pour on wine and oil in due season, and demean yourself as an evangelist, and not as a tyrannical legislator.'
When Farel, undertook the reformation of Montbeliard, he discovered an intemperate bitter expressions which, in the warmth in the pulpit, he applied to the Roman Catholic priests; and his imprudence of conduct could not be defended. Once on a procession day, he wrested from the hands of a priest the image of St. Anthony, and threw it from the bridge into the river; an act which was a gross breach of decorum and toleration; and had not the people been panic-struck by its boldness, might have terminated his labours and his life among them.
Aylmer, Bishop of London in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, who 'could preach not only rhetorically, but pathetically,' whenever he observed the thoughts of his congregation to wander while he was preaching, used to take a Hebrew Bible out of his breast, and read a chapter from it. When the people naturally gaped and looked astonished, he put it up again, and expatiated on the folly of listening greedily to new and strange things, and giving small attention to matters regarding themselves, and of the utmost importance.
Dr. Barnes, one of the martyrs of the reformation, raised his voice against the inordinate pomp of Cardinal Wolsey, in a sermon he preached at Cambridge, for which he was summoned before that imperious prelate. 'What! master doctor,' said Wolsey, 'had you not sufficient scope in the Scriptures to teach the people, but that my golden shoes, my pollaxes, my pillars, my golden cushions, my cross, did so offend you, that you make us ridiculum caput amongst the people? We were jolily that day laughed to scorn. Verily, it was a sermon fitter to be preached on a stage than in a pulpit; for at the last you said, "wear a pair of redde gloves, I should say bloudy gloves, (quoth you) that I should not be cold in the midst of my ceremonies."' Barnes answered, 'I spake nothing but the truth out of the Scriptures, according to my conscience.' 'Then,' said the Cardinal, 'how think you, were it better for me, being in the dignity and honour I am, to coyne my pillars and pollaxes, and give the money to five or six beggars, than for to entertain the commonwealth as I do?'
Bishop Fleetwood was appointed to preach before the House of Lords, on a fast that was appointed while the peace of 1711-1712 was in agitation. By some means or other, information was obtained that his sermon would not be such as would prove acceptable to the ruling party; and the ministry contrived to procure an adjournment of the peers beyond the day fixed for the solemnity. By this trick, Bishop Fleetwood was prevented from delivering his discourse before the peers; but he took care to publish it, for their benefit and that of the public, under the title of 'A Sermon on the Fast Day, against such as delight in War, by a Divine of the Church of England.' This sermon highly exasperated the administration, who afterwards showed their resentment, by procuring a resolution in the House of Commons, that a preface which the bishop had written to some of his sermons, should be burnt by the common hangman.
One Sunday, while the congregation were assembled in the rural church of the parish in which lived the amiable Henry Brooke, author of the 'Fool of Quality,' and other admired works, they waited a long time the arrival of their clergyman. At last, despairing of his coming, they conjectured that some accident had befallen him; and being adverse to depart without some edification, they, with one accord, requested that Mr. Brooke would perform the service for them, and expound a part of the Scriptures. Mr. Brooke, though not in orders, consented; and after the preliminary prayers were over, he opened the Bible, and preached extemporarily on the first text that caught his eye. In the middle of his discourse, the clergyman entered, and found the whole congregation in tears. He entreated Mr. Brooke to proceed, but this he modestly declined: and the clergyman as modestly declared, that after the testimony of superior abilities which he perceived in the moist eyes of all present, he would think it presumption and folly to hazard anything of his own. Accordingly the concluding prayers alone were said, and the congregation dismissed for the day.
Charles I. being present at a sermon preached by Dr. Forbes, a Scottish clergyman, was so highly pleased as to say, 'that he was worthy of having a bishopric created for him;' a compliment not more deserving of notice for its elegance than its sincerity, since his majesty actually followed it by the erection of the diocese of Edinburgh, on the 29th of September, 1633, and appointed Dr. Forbes to be its first bishop.
When Mr. (afterwards Dr.) Chandler was, from losses by the South Sea scheme, obliged to combine the two occupations of Evening Lecturer at the Old Jewry, and bookseller at the Poultry; he published at the one place, some sermons which he had delivered at the other, and presented a copy of them to Archbishop Wake. His Grace expressed his sense of the value of the favour in a letter, which is, an honourable testimony to Mr. Chandler's merit. It appears from the letter, that the archbishop did not then know that the author was anything else than a bookseller, for he says, 'I cannot but own myself to be surprised, to see so much good learning and just reasoning in a person of your profession; and do think it a pity you should not rather spend your time in writing books, than in selling them. But I am glad, since your circumstances oblige you to the latter, that you do not wholly omit the former.'
Jewel's Last Sermon.
When Bishop Jewel, by his laborious course of life, had much impaired his health, his friends, who could not but observe a sensible alteration in his appearance, endeavoured to prevail on him to relax from his incessant application, and to desist for a time, at least, from pulpit services. He only replied to their friendly remonstrances, by saying, that 'a bishop should die preaching.' These words were almost literally fulfilled in his own case; for a short time before his death, having promised to preach at some place in Wiltshire, he would go, although a friend who met him on the way strongly urged him to return home, telling him, that the people had better lose one sermon, than be altogether deprived of such a pastor. The bishop, however, could not be prevailed upon to return, but proceeded to the place appointed, and there preached his last sermon, which he was not able to finish without great difficulty. He died a few days after.
Bishop Atterbury's talents as a preacher were so excellent and remarkable, that he may be said to have owed his preferment to the pulpit. A writer of his day, who appears to have been well acquainted with him, says, 'he has so particular a regard for his congregation, that he commits to his memory what he has to say to them; and has so soft and graceful a behaviour, that it must attract your attention. His person, it must be confessed, is no small recommendation; but he is to be highly commended for not losing that advantage, and adding to a propriety of speech which might pass the criticism of Longinus, an action which would have been approved by Demosthenes. He has a peculiar force in his way, and has many of his audience who could not be intelligent hearers of his discourse, were there no explanations as well as grace in his action. This art of his is used with the most exact and honest skill. He never attempts your passions, till he has convinced your reason. All the objections which you can form, are laid open and dispersed, before he uses the least vehemence in his sermon; but when he thinks he has your head, he very soon wins your heart, and never pretends to show the beauty of holiness, till he has convinced you of the truth of it.'
Hugh Broughton, distinguished in his day for his profound and recondite learning, was in early life a very popular preacher. His manner was peculiar: he used to take a text in the Old Testament, and a parallel one in the New, and discourse upon them largely in conjunction. This threw him into many fanciful and mystical applications and interpretations, which, however, were agreeable to many at the time; so that he attached to himself a considerable number of hearers, some of them persons of high rank.
Satire . The Abbe de Cassagne is a singular instance of the fatal effect of wanton satire. He went to Paris when young, as a divine, and intended to become a court preacher, but was unfortunately joined with Cotin as a specimen of bad preaching. This occurs in a couplet of one of the satires of Boileau, who appears only to have known of his qualifications by report.
' Si l'on n'est plus au large assis en un festin,
Qu'aux sermons de Cassagne, ou du l'abbe Cotin.'
This disgrace affected him so much, that he never appeared in the pulpit afterwards.
Fletcher of Madely.
Of the few clergymen who entered into the views of Mr. Wesley, and heartily co-operated with him, jean Guillaume de le Flechere, or as he was more generally called, Fletcher of Madely, was the most remarkable for his intellectual powers. Although a minister of the Church of England, and Vicar of Madely in Shropshire, yet from the day of his ordination, he connected himself with the Methodists. His parishioners were principally engaged in the collieries and iron works; and their character such as, to the reproach of England, it generally is, wherever mines or manufactures have brought together a crowded population.
Fletcher set about zealously to reform them; and devoted not only his life but his whole fortune in doing good. When some of his remote parishioners excused themselves for not attending the morning service, by pleading that they did not awake early enough to get their families ready, for some months he set out every Sunday at five o'clock with a bell in his hand, and went round the most distant parts of his parish to call up the people. Whenever hearers could be collected in the surrounding country, within ten or fifteen miles, he went thither to preach to them in the week days, though he seldom got home before one or two in the morning.
At first the rabble of his parishioners resented the manner in which he ventured to reprove and exhort them; but he soon won upon them, rude and brutal as they were, till at length his church, which at first had been so scantily attended, that he was discouraged as well as mortified by the smallness of his congregation, began to overflow.
The death of this good man is particularly interesting. His health had been long on the decline, when he said, 'my little field of action is just at my door; so that if I happen to overdo myself, I have but to step from my pulpit to my bed, and from my bed to my grave.'
As he got worse he could not be induced to relinquish preaching; no persuasion could prevail on him to stay from church on the Sunday before his death, nor would he permit any part of the service to be performed for him: he had not however proceeded far in the service, when he grew pale and faltered in his speech, and could scarcely keep himself from fainting. The congregation were greatly affected and alarmed, and Mrs. Fletcher pressing through the crowd, earnestly entreated him not to persevere in what was so evidently beyond his strength. He recovered, however, when the windows were opened; exerted himself against the mortal illness which he felt; went through the service, and preached with remarkable earnestness and not less effect, for his parishioners plainly saw that the hand of death was upon him. After the sermon, he walked to the communion table, saying, 'I am going to throw myself under the wings of the cherubim, before the mercy seat.' 'Here (says his widow, who must be left to describe this last extraordinary effort of enthusiastic devotion) the same distressing scene was renewed with additional solemnity. The people were deeply affected while they beheld him offering the last languid remains of a life that had been lavishly spent in their service. Groans and tears were on every side. In going through this last part of his duty he was exhausted again and again: but his spiritual vigour triumphed over his bodily weakness.
After several times sinking on the sacramental table, he still resumed his sacred work, and cheerfully distributed with his dying hand, the love memorials of his dying Lord. In the course of this concluding office, which he performed by means of the most astonishing exertions, he gave out several verses of hymns, and delivered many affectionate exhortations to his people, calling upon them at intervals to celebrate the mercy of God in short songs of adoration and praise. And now having struggled through a service of near four hours' continuance, he was supported, with blessings in his mouth, from the altar to his chamber, where he lay for some time in a swoon, and from whence he never walked into the world.'
On the following Sunday he breathed his last without a struggle or a groan. 'Such,' says Mr. Southey in his 'Life of Wesley,' 'was the death of Fletcher of Madely, a man whom Methodism may well be proud of as the most able of its defenders; and whom the Church of England may hold in honourable remembrance, as one of the most pious and excellent of her sons.'
The celebrated Nowell, one of the fathers of the English Reformation, when Dean of St. Paul's, offended Queen Elizabeth by something which fell from him while preaching. Her majesty, however, quite confounded the poor dean, by calling aloud to him from her seat, 'to retire from that ungodly digression, and return to his text.'
Mr. Whitefield displayed in his boyhood great theatrical talent; and when afterwards called to the ministry of the gospel, he indulged in an histrionic manner of preaching, which would have been offensive, if it had not been rendered admirable by his natural grace, fulness and inimitable power. Remarkable instances are related of the manner in which he impressed his hearers. A shipbuilder was once asked what he though of him. 'Think!' he replied, 'I tell you, sir; every Sunday that I go to my parish church, I can build a ship from stem to stern under the sermon; but were it to save my soul, under Mr. Whitefield I could not lay a single plank.' Hume pronounced him the most ingenious preacher he had ever heard, and said it was worth while to go twenty miles to hear him. One of his flights of oratory is related on Mr. Hume's authority.' After a solemn pause, Mr. Whitefield thus addressed his audience:- 'The attendant angel is just about to leave the threshold, and ascend to Heaven; and shall he ascend, and not bear with him the news of one sinner, among all the multitude, reclaimed from the error of his ways?' To give the greater effect to this exclamation, he stamped with his foot, lifted up his hands and eyes to Heaven, and cried out, 'Stop, Gabriel! stop, Gabriel! stop ere you enter the sacred portals, and yet carry with you the news of one sinner converted to God!' Hume said this address was accompanied with such animated, yet natural action, that it surpassed anything that he ever saw or heard in any other preacher.
The elocution of Whitefield was perfect; he never faltered, unless when the feeling to which he had wrought himself, overcame him, and then his speech was interrupted by a flow of tears; sometimes the emotion of his mind exhausted him, and the beholders felt a momentary apprehension for his life.
Whitefield would frequently describe the agony of our Saviour with such force, that the scene seemed actually before his auditors. 'Look yonder,' he would say, stretching out his hand, and pointing while he spake, 'what is that I see? It is my agonizing Lord! Hark, hark! do you not hear? "0 my father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me! nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done!"' This he introduced frequently in his sermons; and one who lived with him says, the effect was not destroyed by repetition; even to those who knew what was coming, it came as forcibly as if they had never heard it before.
Sometimes at the close of a sermon he would personate a judge about to perform the last awful duties of his office. With his eyes full of tears, and an emotion that made his speech falter, after a pause which kept the whole audience in breathless expectation of what was to come, be would say, 'I am now going to put on my condemning cap. Sinner, I must do it; I must pronounce sentence upon you!' and, then, in a tremendous strain of eloquence, describing the eternal punishment of the wicked, he recited the words of Christ, 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.' When he spoke of St. Peter, how after the cock crew he went out and wept bitterly, he had a fold of his gown ready, in which he hid his face.
Perfect as it was, histrionism like this would have produced no lasting effect upon the mind, had it not been for the unaffected earnestness and indubitable sincerity of the preacher, which equally characterized his manner, whether he rose to the height of passion in his discourse, or won the attention of the motley crowd by the introduction of familiar stories and illustrations adapted to the meanest capacity.
It was one of the rules laid down by the Methodist conference, that no preacher should preach oftener than twice on a week day, or three times on the Sabbath. One of these sermons was always to be at five in the morning, whenever twenty hearers could be brought together. As the apostolic Eliot used to say to students, 'Look to it, that ye be morning birds,' so Wesley continually inculcated the duty of early rising, as equally good for body and soul. Early preaching, he said, 'is the glory of the Methodists. Whenever this is dropt, they will dwindle into nothing.' He advised his preachers to avoid long sermons; and more than once in his Journal he has recorded the death of men, who were martyrs to long and loud preaching. In a letter to one of his followers on this subject, he writes, 'Scream no more, at the peril of your soul. God now warns you by me, whom he has set over you. Speak as earnestly as you can, but do not scream. Speak with all your heart, but with a moderate voice. It was said of our Lord, "He shall not cry;" the word properly means, "He shall not scream." Herein be a follower of me, as I am of Christ. I often speak loud, often vehemently, but I never scream. I never strain myself; I dare not. I know it would be a sin against God and my own soul.'
La Rue, when destined for the pulpit, took lessons in declamation from the celebrated actor Baron, with whom he was well acquainted. He soon became the favourite preacher at court and in the capital. Voltaire says, that he had two sermons, entitled 'The Sinner Dying,' and 'The Sinner Dead,' which were so popular, that public notice was given by bills when they were to be preached. It was thought extraordinary, that one who so much excelled in declamation, should read his discourses, instead of repeating them from memory; but he contended, that not only time was saved by the indulgence, but that the preacher, at ease with his notes before him, could deliver a discourse with greater animation.
Preaching in Irish.
It was long ago said in Ireland, 'When you plead for your life, plead in Irish.' Wesley seems to have been aware of the command of that language in impressing auditors, when he desired his convert from popery, Thomas Walsh, to preach in Irish. Walsh did so, and with great effect; even the poor Catholics listened willingly, when they were addressed in their mother tongue; his hearers frequently shed silent tears, or sobbed aloud and cried for mercy; and in country towns, the peasantry, who going there upon a market day, had stopped to hear the preacher from mere wonder or curiosity, were often melted into tears, and declared that they could follow him all over the world. One who had laid aside some money, which he intended to bequeath, for the good of his soul, to some priest or friar, offered it to Mr. Walsh, if he would accept of it.
At a country town about twenty miles from Cork, the magistrate, who was rector of the place, declared he would commit Walsh to prison, if he did not promise to preach no more in the neighbourhood. He replied by asking if there were no swearers, drunkards, sabbath-breakers, and the like, in those parts; adding, that if after he should have preached there a few times, there appeared no reformation among them, he would never come there again. Not satisfied with such a proposal, the magistrate committed him to prison: but Walsh was popular in the town; the people manifested a great interest in his behalf: he preached to them from the prison window, and it was soon thought advisable to release him.
The zeal of this extraordinary man was such, that, as he truly said of himself, the sword was too sharp for the scabbard. At five-and-twenty, he might have been taken for forty years of age; and he literally wore himself out before he attained the age of thirty, by the most unremitting labour both of body and mind.
When Mr. Wesley was once preaching at Bath, Beau Nash entered the room, came close to the preacher, and demanded by what authority he was acting? Wesley answered, 'By that of Jesus Christ, conveyed to me by the present Archbishop of Canterbury, when he laid his hands upon me and said, "Take thou authority to preach the gospel."' Nash then affirmed that he was acting contrary to the law. Besides, said he, 'your preaching frightens people out of their wits,' 'Sir,' replied Wesley, 'did you ever hear me preach?' 'No,' said the master of the ceremonies. 'How, then, can you judge of what you never heard?' 'By common report,' replied Nash. 'Sir, said Wesley, 'is not your name Nash? I dare not judge of you by common report; I think it not enough to judge by.' Whether Nash was right as to the extravagance of the Methodists or not, he certainly was delivering his opinions in a wrong place; and when he desired to know what the people came there for, one of the congregation cried out, 'Let an old woman answer him. You, Mr. Nash, take care of your body; we take care of our souls, and for the food of our souls we come here.' Nash now found himself a very different person in the meeting-house, from what he was in the pump-room or the assembly, and thought it best to withdraw.
The clergy in the early period of the Reformation were proverbially ignorant. Fuller says, 'Sad the times in the beginning of Queen Elizabeth, when the clergy were commanded to read the chapters over once or twice by themselves, so that they might be the better enabled to read them distinctly in the Congregation.'
Among the puritan clergy in a later age, there were certainly men of great piety and learning; but it is not less certain that, in the necessary consequences of such a revolution, some of the men who rose into notice and power, were such as South in one of his sermons describes. 'Among those of the late reforming age,' he says, 'all learning was utterly cried down. So that, with them, the best preachers were such as could not read, and the ablest divines such as could not write. In all their preachments, they so highly pretended to the spirit, that they could hardly so much as spell the letter. To be blind was, with them, the proper qualification of a spiritual guide; and to be book-learned, as they call it, and to be irreligious, were almost terms convertible. None were thought fit for the ministry but tradesmen and mechanics, because none else were allowed to have the spirit. Those only were accounted like St. Paul, who could work with their hands, and, in a literal sense, drive the nail home, and be able to make a pulpit before they preach in it.'
One of the earliest, and certainly not the least efficient, apostles of Methodism, was Mr. Charles Wesley, who, as a preacher, has been deemed by some who heard them both, superior to his brother. A person who heard him preach in the fields near Bristol, describes his manner. 'I found him,' says he, 'standing on a table board, in an erect posture, with his hands and eyes lifted up to heaven in prayer; he prayed with uncommon fervour, fluency, and variety of proper expressions. He then preached about an hour, in such a manner as I scarce ever heard any man preach; though I have heard many a finer sermon, according to the common taste of acceptation of sermons, I never heard any man discover such evident signs of a vehement desire, or labour so earnestly to convince his hearers, that they were all by nature in a sinful, lost, undone state. With uncommon fervour he acquitted himself as an ambassador of Christ, beseeching them in his name, and praying them in his stead, to be reconciled to God. And although he used no notes, nor had anything in his hand but a Bible, yet he delivered his thoughts in a rich copious variety of expression, and with so much propriety, that I could not observe anything incoherent or inanimate through the whole performance.'
Several of Charles Wesley's sermons have been published; and one of them, from the text, 'Awake, thou that sleepest,' is so popular among the Methodists, that more than a hundred thousand copies of it have been sold.
Mr. John Flavel was one of the most dauntless of all the nonconformist divines. Persecution only made him more zealous; and when the inhuman Oxford Act of 1665 drove him from Dartmouth, he retired to Slapton, a parish five miles distant, where he preached twice every Sunday to those who would venture to become his auditors; and he even occasionally returned by stealth to Dartmouth, to, edify and console his dejected flock by his ministration in their houses. During his residence at Slapton, he once went to Exeter, where many of the inhabitants prevailed on him to preach to them in a wood, about three miles from that city; but he had scarcely begun his sermon, before the meeting was interrupted by a number of his enemies, from whom he narrowly escaped, while several of the assembly were apprehended, and obliged to pay heavy fines. The Test, however, not discouraged by this circumstance, accompanied him to another wood, where he preached without molestation.
Mr. Flavel was a plain, but very pathetic, and popular preacher. He was remarkable for the fluency and fervour of his devotional exercises; and for a peculiar talent which he displayed of spiritualizing natural scenes and objects, as well as different occupations in life.
Sermon on the Execution of Charles I.
John Owen, the celebrated nonconformist, was required to preach before the House of Commons, January 31, 1648-9, the very day after the execution of Charles I. Much was expected from this sermon, and an apology for the sanguinary deed of the preceding day would infallibly have led to preferment; but we are told his discourse was so modest and inoffensive, that his friends could make no just exception, and his enemies found nothing to treasure up for the vengeance of a future day.
After this Owen was frequently appointed to preach before the parliament; and in February, 1649, had Cromwell for the first time as one of his hearers. Cromwell was highly pleased with the discourse; and meeting Mr. 0 a few days after, at the house of General Fairfax, he came directly up to him, and laying his hand on his shoulder in a familiar way, said, 'Sir, you are the person I must be acquainted with.' Mr. Owen modestly replied, 'That will be more to my advantage than yours.' Cromwell rejoined, 'We shall soon see that;' and taking Owen by the hand, led him into Fairfax's garden; and from this time contracted an intimate friendship with him which continued to his death.
This great missionary, who, perhaps, more than any other man obeyed the divine command- 'Go ye, and preach the gospel to every creature,' extended his labours to the most distant parts of the earth, and preached in the greatest variety of situations, and under the most varied circumstances. At Raleigh, the seat of government for North Carolina, in the United States, he obtained the use of the House of Commons; the members of both houses attended, and the speaker's seat served for a pulpit. At Annapolis, they lent him the theatre. 'Pit, boxes, and gallery,' says he, 'were filled with people according to their rank in life; and I stood upon the stage, and preached to them, though at first I confess I felt a little awkward.'
But preaching in the forests delighted Coke the most. 'It is,' said he, 'one of my most delicate entertainments, to embrace every opportunity of ingulfing myself (if I may so express it) in the woods; I seem then to be detached from everything but the quiet vegetable creation and my God. Sometimes a most noble vista of half a mile or a mile in length, would open between the lofty pines; sometimes the tender fawns and hinds would suddenly appear, and on seeing or hearing us, would glance through the woods, or vanish away. The deep green of the pines, the bright transparent green of the vales, and the fine white of the dogwood flowers, with other trees and shrubs, form such a complication of beauties as is indescribable to those who have lived in countries that are almost entirely cultivated.'
The manner of tracing the preacher was curious; when a new circuit in the woods was formed, at every turning of the road or path, the preacher split two or three bushes as a direction for those that came after him, and notice was sent round where he was going next to preach.
Whatever difference of opinion may exist as to the religious tenets, or the sincerity, of the late William Huntingdon, it must be acknowledged that the coalheaver who, by virtue of his preaching, came to ride in his own carriage, and married the titled widow of a lord mayor, could be no ordinary man. Huntingdon's manner in the pulpit was peculiar, and his preaching without the slightest appearance of enthusiasm. While the singing was going on before the sermon, he sate perfectly still, with his eyes directed downwards, as if musing upon what he was going to say. He made use of no action, never raved nor ranted, nor ever exerted his voice. Anything which he meant to be emphatic, was marked by a significant nod of the head, and an expression of self-satisfaction. His sermons were inordinately long, seldom less than an hour and a half, and sometimes exceeding two hours. He had texts so completely at command, that even an excellent memory could hardly explain his facility in adducing them unless he had some artificial aid.
Huntingdon was a sort of evangelical Ishmaelite, and in that character considered himself at war not only with the church, but with all sects and denominations. His attacks on the clergy were in the general spirit of dissent; but when he fell upon the dissenters, it was with a more acrimonious feeling. Several preachers attacked him, both from the pulpit and the press, with an asperity which he was at all times ready to retort. Timothy Priestley, one of Huntingdon's antagonists, was treated with coarse severity; 'but an equally zealous opponent, the Rev. Rowland Hill, met with more deference and respect.
Through the interference of Rowland Hill, Huntingdon had been excluded from the tabernacle at Greenwich, where he had been suffered to preach; and it is said, that he took up one of Huntingdon's books with a pair of tongs, and gave it in that manner to the servant to take downstairs, and use it for lighting the fire. Hill had often preached against this renowned antinomian; and one day, when notice had been given that this was to be the subject of his discourse, certain zealous members of Providence Chapel attended, took down his sermon in shorthand, and sent it to their pastor, Huntingdon, that he might reply to it. Rowland Hill had said, that before a man got into the pulpit and advanced such things as Huntingdon, he ought to put on a fool's cap; he also represented him as giving a license to sin, and preaching like a devilsent minister, to tell men that they might break God's commandment.
Huntingdon, in his reply, which was both from the pulpit and the press, did homage to the character of his antagonist, whom he acknowledged to exceed him 'in experience, power, knowledge, usefulness, and conversation.' He assured him that he had no desire to take away one sheep out of his fold, nor one he-goat out of his stable. He was, at the same time, not sparing in sarcasm, and spoke some bitter things under the semblance of great moderation.
It has been observed of Jeremy Taylor, that while he displayed great power of expression, and a rich exuberance of fancy, he blended true sense, false wit, and pedantic quotation. This misfortune, the result of a taste pedantic and affected, was partly the fault of the man, and partly of the time. Taylor, indeed, by the fire and vigour of his genius, threw off all the cold and phlegmatic pedantry which chilled and clouded the invention of such preachers as Bishop Andrews. He stood on a kind of isthmus between the affectations which disgraced the pulpit in the reign of James the First, and the classic purity united with clear ratiocination, which began to develop themselves after the restoration of his grandson.
The writers and preachers of the reign of Charles the First, seem to have studied themselves out of their understanding and their taste together. In their pulpit declamations, addressed for the most part to congregations more illiterate than their descendants of the present generation, these learned triflers could not prove a point of Christian doctrine from St. Paul, or urge a Christian duty from the words of Christ. Their astonished audiences must hear in languages which they had never learned what a whole series of Christian fathers had said on the one, and a whole tribe of heathen moralists on the other. To render such a mode of public instruction profitable, or even tolerable, the gift of interpreting tongues ought to have revived in the church. These learned and senseless farragos were further disgraced by the spirit of witticism and punning, which proved something worse than the preacher's want of taste - his want of seriousness, for no man who had a proper sense of the office of a Christian preacher, would have either leisure or inclination to twist a pun, or trifle with the jangling of words. Meanwhile
The hungry sheep look'd up, and were not fed.'
It may seem a wild and groundless imagination that this unedifying and pedantic way of preaching contributed to the downfall of the church which followed; but it must be remembered that this very depravation in the mode of public instruction gave birth to another style of oratory in the coarse mouths of the puritans, at once slovenly and unlearned, but powerful and enthusiastic, which reached every understanding, moved every heart, and when directed, as it quickly was, against the governors and government of the church, became the most powerful engine in subverting it.
At the restoration of Charles the Second, the old race of orthodox preachers were either dead or dumb from age, while the rude brawlers of the commonwealth were condemned to silence or to secret conventicles. Profligate, however, as he was, and indifferent to all doctrines, Charles had a true taste for style, and as the decencies of his station condemned him to hear one sermon weekly, he determined that, whatever became of his conscience, his ear and understanding at least should not be offended. The revolution was instant, nor did the transition appear more abrupt and striking from the sourness of the court of Oliver to the dissolute gaiety of that of Charles, than from the cant, the nonsense, and the sanctified blasphemy of Goodwin, Sterry, and Hugh Peters, to the irresistible reasonings and the majestic energy of Barrow, or, at a somewhat later period, to the more diffuse and captivating eloquence of Tillotson.
School of Knox.
The eloquence of John Knox and his associates, which wrought such wonders in its day, was of a very singular composition. The matter of it came warm from the heart, in a cause which absorbed every faculty of the speaker, but the manner was caught partly from the solemn denunciations of the ancient prophets, and partly from the energetic and animating tone of the free orators of antiquity. Of the meek spirit of the gospel it certainly partook in a very slender degree. That temper was ill suited to the work in hand.
But of the eloquence of this period it must at least be acknowledged that it was natural and manly, without cant and without fanaticism, formed by men of vigour and good taste, upon excellent models, and calculated alike (which is the highest character of eloquence) for the few and the many. In less than a century, this spirit was fled from the Kirk of Scotland, and Henderson, Gillespie, and their brethren of the covenant bore no more resemblance to Knox, Willock, and Rowe, than at this day do the cold and feeble successors of Watts and Doddridge to those animated and excellent preachers. This lamentable declension, besides a great prostration of native genius, is to be accounted for from the poverty and meanness of their education. They knew little of antiquity, they were not learned in the original language of Scripture, but they had drawn their information from narrow systems of theology, which, as they fostered their native bigotry and bitterness, damped every warm feeling of genius, and crippled every movement of free and excursive intellect. Yet, strange to say, these men wielded the great machine of popular opinion with no less power than Knox, for the truth was that the taste of preachers and of people was then become equally depraved; the nonsense of the one suited the nonsense of the other; they had an appetite for cant, and they were fed with it most abundantly.
The Prize of the High Calling.
When a divine once came to Archbishop Williams for institution to a living, his Grace thus piously expressed himself;- 'I have passed through many places of honour and trust both in church and state - [He had been once Lord Chancellor] - more than any of my order in England these several years before. But were I but assured that by my preaching I had converted but one soul unto God, I should take therein more spiritual joy and comfort than in all the honours and offices which have been bestowed on me.'