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critic. The Homilies were appointed "to be read in the Churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may be understood by the people." The practice of reading the Homilies fell afterwards into disuse, and it was not long before other discourses, and many of them containing sentiments at variance with the doctrine of the Homilies, succeeded in their place. To this, in a great measure, the scarcity of Evangelical instruction, which so long prevailed in the Church, may be ascribed. Whenever the Homilies were diligently read to the people, it was impossible that godly and wholesome doctrine could be forgotten.
The Homilies indeed were intended only to supply, for a season, that want of correct information and scriptural taste, in many ministers, with which a transition so great and so sudden, from popery to the original purity of Christian doctrine, would necessarily be attended. The progress of biblical knowledge, it was to be expected, would both accelerate and invigorate the means of forming a better informed, and a more Evangelical Ministry. When such a ministry was prepared, and qualified to undertake the important office of instruction, the regular reading of the Homilies was fairly superseded. It is not the intention of Providence, that the labours of one generation, either in natural or in divine science, should render unnecessary the exertions of those generations which are to succeed. The improve
ments, which are the spoils of time, that become the inheritance of succeeding ages, are by them to be conveyed down with usury, to those who are soon to fill their places. The public instructer, who adds nothing to the collected stock, who has neither a head to think, nor a heart to feel, but as it is set in motion by the labours of
others, and who knows no higher office than reading what others have composed, is little better than a machine, worked by an invisible hand. Should the discourses of a Minister of Christianity fall far below the standard of those who have gone before him, it is still some praise, that they are not wholly borrowed; that they are in some degree, his own. It is much to be lamented that the authority of names justly high in the empire of literature, (an empire from which the Kingdom of Heaven should never in this world be separated), has sometimes given a sort of consecration to habits, inimical both to the Clergy and to the Laity. Before Mr. Addi
son's eulogy on the practice of Clergymen reading printed sermons, in the public offices of religion, it appears that by many ministers the habit had been formed, and to a considerable extent had spread in the Church. The sanction of his name was thought to give it sufficient confirmation, and with amazing rapidity it became prevalent. Some divines were even forward to boast, that they had never composed a sermon. This disgraceful custom, by which the ministers of Christianity were converted into preaching-engines, bringing nothing but lungs to the service of religion, contributed mightily to depress the healthful vigour, inspired by the doctrines of the Reformation. He who wanted energy to collect and to compose, felt the destitution of it also in thinking, and in examining what were the proper subjects, and what was the proper mode of Christian instruction. Many of the laity, from the frequent recurrence of the same discourses at stated intervals, knew they had nothing new to expect, and, as soon as the text was read, composed themselves to rest. Others thought that they could read printed sermons at
home, and either deserted the services of the Church altogether, or sought them where a more animated address was better calculated to rouse, and to enchain their attention. This vacuity of thought, and of exercise corresponding to the duties of their high calling, naturally superinduced in the Clergy habits of dissipation and the waste of time; and the pleasures of the saint were merged in those of the sportsman.
If the business of a public instructer may be properly discharged by one minister of religion, by reading the compositions of another, why may not all the ministers in the kingdom discharge their duty in the same manner; and by retailing the thousands of sermons already in a state of requisition, dedicate to other purposes the hours of study and meditation ? The stock of sermons already prepared may, by proper husbandry, hold out for a thousand years, and indeed, for ever. The present enormous expense of an University education, and of a competent library is, upon this plan, only a waste of money and of time, which may be better laid out on other employments. The spending of a few months under the tuition of some experienced actor, who can impart the various melodies of accent, emphasis, and tone, the only acquisitions that will be requisite, will be sufficient; and learning and piety may be left to sink together. If the practice of reading printed, be only exchanged for that of reading engraven sermons," that cheat the eyes of gallery critics by a thousand arts," matters are still on precisely the same footing. The dignitaries of the Church have seldom or never descended to such pitiful conduct.
With respect to the best mode of delivering Sermons, the opinions even of great men have been discordant. The Clergy of the Church of England have, in general,
been accustomed to read their sermons from their notes. This mode possesses some advantages. It admits of greater correctness, and is better adapted, than any other, to preserve unbroken a chain of reasoning, and to prevent repetition. It provides against any incidental dissipation of ideas, which may proceed from weakness of nerves, or any sudden cause of perturbation. Sermons preached before Courts, and before men of highly cultivated talents, as at the Assizes, may perhaps be delivered in this manner, with more propriety and effect, than in any other. In the addresses that are made to ordinary congregations, its disadvantages are considerable. It will hardly admit of that action, which gives energy to a discourse. It is with difficulty that it is susceptible of animation, and generally appears stiff and awkward, making the Preacher seem like a man moving in armour. It wants the vivacity and the fire, that are necessary to awaken and engage the attention of the hearers. The style is generally too laboured, and by this means, the ideas escape the observation of those, who cannot search for truths that do not present themselves at the first view, and float on the surface of the subject. It has almost been peculiar to the Clergy of the Church of England. A considerable number of the Clergy of the Church of Scotland, have lately adopted it; but there it is extremely unpopular, though it has been recommended by Dr. Campbell, and some other writers of literary eminence. Preachers among the Roman Catholics never adopt it; and in almost all the Foreign Churches, the teachers of religion employ another mode of religious instruction. The same thing may be said of the English Dissenters, with the exception of those who have embraced Pelagian, Arian, or Socinian sentiments. The
celebrated Dean Swift, in a letter to a young Clergyman, expresses his decided preference of another manner of address.
Another mode of preaching is, from notes fully written and committed to memory. This method supposes the language as well as the sentiments to have been previously adjusted, and the structure of the sentences to be preserved in the elocution. This mode of address is not without its advantages. It appears more natural and free than a discourse read from a manuscript. The gesture and action of the speaker are less incumbered, and generally more impressive and animated. It is attended however with one almost insuperable difficulty, that the memory of most men is not sufficiently retentive for so arduous an undertaking. Bishop Jewel is said to have possessed such powers of retention, that with the assistance of art he could, with once reading over his discourses, pronounce them exactly as they were composed. This method accustoms the mind to think accurately, to clothe its ideas with correctness if not with elegance, and the preacher to say no more than what is necessary. Every preacher who does not read his discourses, will do well to habituate himself to this method as much as may consist with the frequency of his public exhibitions.
Another method of preaching is to compose fully, and to commit to memory the train of ideas, without overwhelming it with the load of words, trusting that the ideas will clothe themselves, with proper words in proper places. This mode gives scope to mental energy, but will hardly admit of the correctness and compression of the other two.
A fourth mode of preaching consists in arranging the