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The custom of repeating from memory hath brought forward in the road of sacred Eloquence, that multitude of preachers, who through indolence, or defect of talents, deliver the sermons of others.
As for such, their ministerial labours are wholly confined to the painful and unpleasant task of imprinting in the memory discourses which they have not had the trouble or pleasure of composing. Memory equalizes all Christian Orators before the eyes of the people, and serves as a supplement to genius.
a feeble memory ; for where the genius is bright, and the • imagination vivid, the power of memory may be too much • neglected, and lose its improvement. An active fancy • readily wanders over a multitude of objects, and is conti
nually entertaining itself with new-flying images; it runs through a number of new scenes, or new pages, with pleasure,
but without due attention, and seldom suffers itself " to dwell long enough upon any of them to make a deep im
pression thereof upon the mind, and commit itself to ever• lasting remenbrance. This is one plain and obvious rea'son why there are some persons of very bright parts and ac'" tive spirits, who have but very short and parrow powers
of remembrance ; for having riches of their own, they are not solicitous to borrow.'-Ibid. p. 250.
Useful directions for the improvement of the memory,
will be found in Watt's on the Improvement of the Mind, vol. i. c. xvii. p. 245, 8vo. in Mason on Seif Knowledge, C. St P. 131, 8vo. and in Rollin's Belles Letters, B. I. c. 3. iv. p. 244, 8vo.
But this slight inconvenience may promote religious instruction, without preventing the improvement of the art of preaching; and it may be inferred, that he, who preaches the sermons of others, does so from an inability to produce better himself.
Should it ever be the case, that ministers of the gospel would wish to rest satisfied with reading religious instructions from the pulpit, their hearers would become fewer and their discourses less successful; for memory resembles a sudden inspiration, whereas reading is only a cold communication
* If the practice of preaching sermons memoriter be objectionable, the practice of reading them verbatim is still more so. Against the former method, which M. Maury seems to approve of, it may be objected, that it renders preaching a great labour ; that if the preacher forget one word, he perplexes himself, and confuses the auditory ; and that it puts a restraint upon pronunciation, action, and the movement of the passions, while the mind is wholly taken up with recollection and repetition. See PERKINS's Art of Preaching, vol. ii. e. 9.
A slavish attachment to written notes, which has become so prevalent in the present day, both among the established and dissenting clergy, unquestionably tends to enervate the energy, which should accompany the delivery of sermons, and in some measure, to weaken and prevent the desired ef-fects.
The judicious reflection of our author conce
ng the consequences of ministers resting satisfied with reading rek: gious instructions · from the pulpit,' has great weight in it, and should be seriously considered by ministers, whose concern it is to be useful. Facts strongly corroborate the justness of his reasoning. The most accurate and sensible dis. courses of mere readers are disregarded, and their hearers are comparatively few, while the discourses of others, which appear to flow 'ex imo pectore,' though, perhaps, less accurate and elegant, are listened to with pleasure and avidi. ty. In this respect, human nature is the same in every country, and will continue to be so till the end of time.
That the above hints, which the translator throws out, with all deference, may not appear to lose the weight and support of authority, the reader is presented with the following sentiments of wise and capable judges.
We shall begin with HORACE, who tells us, in general, that the speaker, who has thoroughly digested his subjects will be at no great loss for suitable expressions :
• Verbaque provisam rem non invita sequentur.'-Hor. Art. Poet. I. 311.
Let us next attend to the united suffrages of two respectable dignitaries of the Church of England : Bishop WILKINS says, * As for composing, it will not be convenient for a
constant preacher to pen all his discourse, or to tie him• self to phrases ; when the matter is well digested, espres.
sions will easily follow, whereas to be confined to words, • besides the oppression of the memory, will much prejudice • the operation of the understanding and affections. The * judgment will be much weakened, and the affections dul• led, when the memory is overburthened. A man cannot
ordinarily, be so much affected himself, and consequently • he cannot affect other, with things he speaks by rote : he should take some liberty to prosecute a matter according to • his more immediate apprehensions of it ; by which many (particulars may be suggested, not before thought of, accora • ding to the working of his ow.. affections, and the various
• alterations that may appear in the auditory ; and besides they will breed a wagenova such a fitting confidence as
should be in that Orator, who is to have a power over the • affections of others, of which such a one is scarce capable.' -WILKIN's Ecclesiast. 5 2. To the same effect, see FENElon's Dialogues concerning Eloquence, dial. ii. p. 78, &c.
Bishop Burner gives us his sentiments on this subject, as follow : • This leads me to consider the difference that • is between reading and speaking of sermons. Reading is ' peculiar to this nation, and is endured in no other. It has ' indeed made our sermons more exact, and has thus produ'ced many volumes of the best that are extant. But, after all, though some few read so happily, pronounce so truly, • and enter so entirely into those affections, which they re"commend, that, in them, 'we see both the correctness of 'reading, and the seriousness of speaking sermons ; yet e
very one is not so happy ; some by hanging their heads • perpetually over their notes, by blundering as they read, ' and by a cursory running over them, do so lessen the mat
ter of their sermons, that, as they are generally read with very little life or affection, so they are heard with as little • regard or esteem. Those who read, ought certainly to be at a little more pains, than, for the most part, they are, to read true ; to pronounce with an emphasis ; to raise their head, and to direct their eyes to their hearers : and if they * practised more, alone, the just way of reading, they might deliver their sermons with much more advantage. Man is
a low sort of creature : he does not (nay, the greater part 'cannot,) consider things in themselves, without those little
seasonings that must recommend them to their affections. • Besides, the people, who are too apt to censure the clergy, • are easily carried into an obvious reflection on reading, that • it is an effect of laziness.'-BURNET's Pastoral Care, S ix.
• The learned Dr. Watts, in his Thoughts, entitled, · Words without Spirit, describes the following character : LECTORIUs is a pious man, and worthy minister in a coun.
try parish : his discourses are well formed, his sentiments on almost every subject are just and proper, his style is modern, and not unpolite, nor does he utterly neglect the • passions in the turn of his composures ; yet I cannot call
him a good preacher, for he does not only use his written . notes to secure his method, and to relieve his memory, but he scarce ever takes his eye from off his book to address himself with life and spirit, to the people : for this reason, many of his hearers fall asleep; the rest of them sit from • January to December, regardless and unconcerned: an • air of indolence reigns through the faces of his auditory, as
if it were a matter of no importance, or not addressed to • them, and his ministrations have little power or success. ' In his last sermon, he had a use of reproof for some vices ' which were practised in a public and shameless manner in his parish, and he thought that these sins ought not to es
cape a public rebuke. The paragraph was well drawn up, • and indeed it was animated with some just and awful se
verities of language ; yet he had not courage enough to *chide the guilty, nor to animate bis voice with any just de.
of zeal. However, the good man did his best, he went into the pulpit, and read them a chiding.
* His conduct is just the same when he designs his ad. • dress in his paper to any of the softer passions ; for by the
coldness of his pronunciation, and keeping his eye ever : fixed on his notes, he makes very little impression on his
hearers. When he should awaken senseless and obstinate • sinners, and pluck them as brands out of the burning, he
only reads to them out of his book some words of pity, or * perhaps a use of terror; and if he would lament over their
impenitence and approaching ruin, he can do no more than . read them a chapter of lamentation.
• Since there are so many of the kindred of Lecterius in our nation, it is no wonder that some of them arise to vin• dicate the family and their practice. Do not the English sermons, say they, exceed those of other nations, because