« ForrigeFortsæt »
quisites of oratory; few can become orators ; but all may be correct and agreeable speakers (at least with few exceptions,) if they will not be too ambitious for distinction.
It has been debated, whether sermons may be most advantageously delivered from written notes, memory, or perfectly extempore. Dr. Beattie decides in fàyour of written sermons. Indeed there is scarcely any extempore dis. course which is not too diffuse for the time usually alloted for the pulpit, that might not in fact be comprised in much fewer words, and which does not abound in impertinencies, tautologies, or solecisms. Yet a good extempore discourse has more effect in a common audience than a written one. A practice which has been much exclaimed against, but I think without reason, is that of preaching from printed ser
If it does not beget habits of indolence in young clergymen, and is only the effect of modesty at their first entrance into public life, it is rather commendable than otherwise; but they should be cautioned when they do pilfer, rather to take from approved writers, than from obscure, or old authors, as is frequently done to escape detection; and it may be observed,
that he who is unqualified to compose is commonly unfitted to select.
The style of the French writers I do not, in general, admire; they are, it is true, animated, while the English are rational and full of argument; but both these should be united to form
: a perfect preacher. The French have but few thoughts, and these placed in a variety of lights, which renders them sometimes feeble, but they are, perhaps, more warm and persuasive. There are some protestant preachers of the French, and particularly Saurin, who may be read with advantage. Amongst their popish divines, Bourdaloue is the most admired in France, but he is sometimes dull and verbose. Flechier is more ornamental; but the most distinguished is Masillon, bishop of Clermont, who is really an elegant and nervous writer, and one who well understood the human heart.
In England, before the Restoration, the preachers were much addicted to scholastic and casuistical theology, and abounded in' divi. sions. After the Restoration they became more correct and rational; but the puritans still retained something of the old style, united with a considerable share of enthusiasm. The oppo
sition between them caused those of the establishment to run into the other extreme, and the majority of them became mere moral and insipid preachers.
There is however a great number of excellent sermons in our language. Among the old au
. thors I prefer Jeremy Taylor. He is classical, pathetic, and, for the time he lived in, elegant in his style. English preaching was, however, but in its infancy at that period : he admits, therefore, many thoughts and allusions into his discourses, which would excite a stare, if not a smile, in a modern audience; and if any divine should wish to adopt them, he must have some confidence in his own taste, and some expertness in the art of abridging. Dr. Barrow possessed a more varied stock of learning than perhaps any
divine of our church. He has written on almost every subject of divinity or ethics; and I know few books to which I would rather choose to refer the student of theology, than to his Sérmons on the Christian Faith. Though his genius was mathematical, I confess there appears rather a want of method in some of his dis
His style is in general plain and chaste. His periods are not full, but run
smoothly from the tongue; and his language, for the most part, preserves one even tenor. He is a great magazine of sentiment and informa. tion, and may be resorted to by young preach. ers, with great advantage.
Dr. Tillotson's sermons have been admired. They are however, in general, too polemical, and the language is too loose and unharmonious. It has few well-turned periods, and is sometimes as slovenly as common conversation. The sermons of this good and learned man contain, however, some passages exquisitely beautiful.
I can, I confess, read South with more pleasure than the last mentioned author, though I do not pretend to apologize for his buffoonery. He is keen, pointed, sarcastic. He is a great judge of human nature, which he does not al. ways view in the most favourable light. He is always animated, keeps alive our attention by the energy of his arguments, the acuteness of his wit, and the terseness and compression of his style. He seldom affects the pathetic, and never succeeds in it.
Bishop Atterbury is perhaps the most elegant and classical writer among our divines.
His discourses have all the flow and elegance of Cicero, with the chasteness and purity of Demosthenes. His style is animated, yet not too bighly ornamented; and his allusions are original, classical, and splendid. The sermon on the character of the Scorner is as animated a philippic as any in the compass of the whole of the Roman oratory; that on Paul before Fe. lix is-admirably pathetic.
Some of Bishop Sherlock's are, in my opinion, among the very best and most interesting sermons in the English language. His knowledge of human nature is perhaps superior to that of all the preceding writers. His arrangement is correct and striking; his subjects wellchosen, his arguments forcible and ingenious. In general I think his doctrinal are inferior to his moral discourses.
Dr. Clarke's are curious and critical, and ought to be read by every divine; he is one of the best expositors of Scripture that I know. Dr. Jortin's are nearly of the same kind. They contain a fund of excellent matter, of keen remarks, and original thought. Both these writers are, however, rather curious than popular; and are rather to be considered as repositories of