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INSTRUCTIONS AND CRITICISMS #
READING OF THE CHURCH SERVICE.
SHERIDAN'S ADDRESS TO THE CLERGY.
You cannot but be sensible of the general clamour, which has, at all times, been raised against the very bad manner in which the service of the church is too often administered. The blame of this has been constantly thrown upon you by the laity; who charge you with neglect, and want of taking proper pains to qualify yourselves for executing this important part of your duty. In the course of this work I have fully exonerated you from that charge; as however desirous you might be to make yourselves masters of it, the means were not in your power; for having no lights to guide you in your researches, you were each obliged to continue in that manner of delivery, which you had acquired in your early days, and which custom had established too firmly to be altered without assistance. But this excuse will now no longer avail you. The means of acquitting yourselves, with propriety at least, in the discharge of that part of your office, are so clearly laid open, that a person of a very moderate capacity may attain it, by the application of one month only; and such as are desirous of excelling in that way, may compass their end, in proportion to their natural powers of delivery, and the. pains they shall take, according to the method here proposed.
Such of the clergy as shall hereafter neglect to make use of the means of information now offered to them, will be considered as inexcusable; and their faults can no longer escape notice, as they will all now be obvious to their hearers; for it is probable that this work will be very generally read by the laity, to whom, in other respects, it will be found equally useful and necessary.
If my Lords the Bishops would pitch upon this book as part of their examination for holy orders, and make propriety of reading, in all future candidates, an essential requisite to their admission into that sacred office, they would do a more real service to the cause of religion, than the most celebrated of their order em have done by their polemical writings.
There is not any thing which can shew the low state of the Art of Reading among us, in a stronger light, than the general complaint, that the service of the church is so seldom delivered with propriety. At first view, one would be apt to imagine, that in the settled service, open to all to be studied and examined at leisure, every one, by suitable pains, might make himself master of the proper manner of reading it. It is this mistaken notion, which makes the laity so forward to lay the blame at the door of such of the clergy, as do not perform this part of the office well; attributing it wholly to neglect, and the want of taking proper pains. Whereas the true cause of the defect, is, the erroneous manner in which all are taught to read, by persons utterly disqualified for the office. They are originally set wrong upon principle, and yet think themselves right. How is it possible therefore, that they should set about amending faults, of which they are not conscious? And when this faulty manner has taken root, by custom and a length of years, how difficult, nay impossible would it be, even supposing they were made conscious of it, to change such habits, without the assistance of skilful persons, to point out the particulars in which they are faulty, and shew how they are to be amended. And where are such to be found? As to any information they might receive from their friends or acquaintance, they would be but little the better for it; as they probably are as unskilled in the art, and