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"One might follow, says the archbishop of Cam"bray, in his Dialogues on Eloquence, where he lays
down excellent rules for preaching; one might
follow many preachers twenty years, and not be “instructed in religion in the manner we ought. I “ have often observed, says he elsewhere, that there “is no art or science but is taught from principles, " and methodically; whilst religion only is not taught “after that method. A little dry catechism, which " they do not understand, is given them in their in“ fant years to learn by heart; after which, they have “no other instructions but what they can gather from “ loose indigested sermons. I wish that Christians “ were taught the first elements of their religion, and “ were instructed with order and method to the high
est mysteries. This was the practise of the earlier
ages of the church. Ministers used to begin with “ catechisms, after which they taught the Gospel re“ gularly by homilies, whereby Christians became “perfectly acquainted with the whole word of God.”
In this manner pastors taught anciently their flocks; and the chief preparation they judged necessary for this important duty, which they looked upon with great terror, was the study of the Sacred Writings. I shall content myself with citing here the testimony and example of St. Austin. Valerius his bishop had ordained him priest, almost in spite of himself, in the view chiefly of making him exercise the ministry of preaching; and indeed he a little after obliges him to it. Who can express the fears, the inquietudes and alarms, with which St. Austin was seized at the sight of this function? And yet many look upon it as a sport, though this great man trembled at it. But what was wanting in him, either with regard to genius, or the knowledge necessary in a preacher! And this his bishop represented to him. [k] He himself owns, that he was well enough acquainted with all those things which relate to religion; but then he imagined, that he was not sufficiently able to distribute those [k] Epift. xxi. ad. Valer.
truths to others, so as to conduce to their salvation; and this made him request so earnestly, that some time at least might be allowed him, in order to prepare himself for it, by the study of the Holy Scriptures, by prayer, and by tears. “But if, says he, in his “ beautiful petition to his bishop, after having learn“ed from experience the qualifications required in a “ man who is intrusted with the dispensation of the
sacraments and of the word of God, you will not “allow me time to acquire what I am sensible is want“ing in myself, you would then have me perish. “ Valerius, my dear father, where is your love and
charity? ... For what answer shall I be able to
make to the Lord, when he will judge me? Shall “ I tell him, that, after I had once accepted of eccle"siastical employments, it was not possible for me to “inform myself in those things which were necessary “ to enable me to discharge them as I ought?”
All that St. Austin thought on this subject, the several fathers of the church, who were charged with the ministry of preaching, have thought and practised in the same manner: St Basil, St. Gregory Nazienzen, St. Chrysostoin, did thus, and pointed out the same course to their successors. This study therefore is necessary to all, and may be of vast use. There are a great number of clergymen, who, though of small abilities in other respects, are appointed however to instruct children, the common people or peasants, whom the bare study of the Holy Scriptures, and especially of the New Testament, will enable to acquit successfully of their duty; and in whom this study, if carefully followed, will supply what they may want with regard to learning and Eloquence.  St. Austin advises, that the poorer they find themselves, the more they ought to borrow the riches of the Scriptures; that they should take from these an authority they could never have had for themselves, by enforcing
[!] Quanto se pauperiorem cernit priis verbis minor erat, magnorum in suis tanto eum oportet in iştis testimonio quodammodo crescat. esse ditiorem : ut quod dixerit suis De Doct. Chr. 1.4. c. 5. verbis, probet ex illis ; & qui pro
their own words for their testimony; and that they should find in their greatness and strength, the means to grow in strength of mind, and to fortify themselves by those divine aids.
THE STUDY OF THE FATHERS, But, in order to discharge the more worthily so sublime and important a ministry, we must join to the study of Sacred Writings, that of the doctors of the church, who are the true interpreters of it, and whom Christ, the sole sovereign of men, condescended to as: sociate in that honourable quality, by enlightening them particularly with his word.
The Eloquence of the Pulpit has an advantage over that of the bar, which is not sufficiently valued, nor, in my opinion, sufficiently practised. In the latter, the orator draws almost every thing he is to say, from his own understanding. He may make use of some thoughts, and some turns, borrowed from the ancients, but then he is not allowed to copy them; and though
; he were allowed this, his subject would seldom admit of it. But it is otherwise with a preacher; for, what subject soever he may treat, a spacious field is him in the Greek and Latin fathers, where he is sure to find all the most just and solid particulars which can be said on the same head; not only principles and their consequences; truths, and the proofs of them; the rules, and their application; but even very often the thoughts and turns; insomuch, than an orator of no great abilities is on a sudden enriched by the wealth of others, which becomes in some measure his own by the use he makes of it. And so far from its being a crime in him to adorn himself thus with these precious spoils; he ought, on the contrary, to be censured, in case he presumed to prefer his own thoughts to those of such great men, who, by a peculiar privilege, were destined to instruct all ages and nations after their death.
I do not pretend, in speaking thus, to confine thelaþour of preachers to extracting the most beautiful pas,
sages from the fathers, and delivering them so detached to their hearers. However, though they should do this, their flock would not be thereby less instructed; nor would their case be very hard, should they still have St. Ambrose, St. Austin, and St. Chrysostoin, for their pastors. I have heard a clergyman in Paris, who was very much followed and admired, though most of his sermons were borrowed from Mr. Tourneux and Mr. Nicole. And indeed, what need the people care whence what they hear is borrowed, provided it be excellent, and well adapted to their instruction; but a preacher is allowed to lend, or rather to join his Eloquence to that of those great men, by borrowing from them the substance of his proofs and arguments: and expressing them after his manner, without following them servilely. If he undertakes, for instance, to shew why God permits just men to be afflicted in this life, St. Chrysostom, in his first homily to the people of Antioch, supplies him with ten or twelve different reasons, all supported by texts of Scripture; and adds a great number in other discourses. St. Austin has also some wonderful passages on this subject, which he treated often, because this instruction and consolation have in all ages been necessary to the good and just. Can a preacher of genius and elocution, finding himself in the midst of these immense riches, of which he is allowed to take whatever he pleases, fail of delivering himself in a great, noble, majestic, and at the same time solid and instructive manner? A person, who is a little conversant with the fathers, immediately discovers whether a discourse flows from those sources ; whether the proofs and principles were taken from thence; and though the preacher be ever so eloquent or solid in other respects, yet if he is deficient in this part, he wants something very essential.
I again repeat that this advantage is of inestimable value, and does not require infinite pains or time. Some years of retirement would suffice for this study, how extensive soever it may appear: and that man,
who should have made himself master only of the homilies of St. John Chrysostom, and St. Austin's sermons on the Old and New Testament, with some other little treatises of the latter, would find in them all that is necessary to form an excellent preacher. These two great masters would alone suffice to teach him in what manner he is to instruct his flock, by teaching them religion thoroughly and from principles, and by clearly explaining to them its tenets and inorality; but above all, by making them perfectly acquainted with Christ, his doctrine, actions, sufferings, mysteries, and annexing these several instructions to the text of Scripture itself
, the explication of which is equally adapted to the capacities, and the taste, both of the learned and unlearned ; and fixes truth in the mind, in a more easy and agreeable
One cannot inculcate too much to young men, after St. Austin's example, the necessity they will be under, in case God should one day call them to the ecclesiastical ministry, of going through a course of solid studies, of making the Scriptures familiar to themselves, and of taking the holy fathers for their guides and masters before they undertake to teach others.
OF THE ELOQUENCE OF THE SACRED WRITINGS.
WHEN I propose to make some reflections here on the Eloquence of the Scriptures, I am far from being willing to confound them with those upon profane authors, by making youth remark only such things as please the ear, delight the imagination, and form the taste. The design
The design of God, in speaking to mankind by the Scriptures, was not undoubtedly to foment their pride and curiosity, or to make them orators and learned men, but to amend their hearts. His intention in those sacred books, is not to please the imagination, or to teach us to move