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And yet most of these complaints are really absurd. To ask that the large majority of the clergy of any communion should become what is called good preachers, is to ask for an alteration in human nature. Whatever may be the degree of improvement which is possible in the average clergy as preachers, it is out of the question that the universal standard should ever be high. The mere fact that a man takes orders, does not alter his natural capacities; nor will all the zeal and good intentions in the world confer upon him the gift which nature has denied him. If it is argued that no man should be allowed to take orders who cannot preach, at least tolerably well, the view is equivalent to a rejection of thousands of candidates who would in all other respects make exemplary parochial clergymen. If none but thoroughly good preachers were to undertake parish work, nine-tenths of our churches would remain unsupplied. The demand for universally excellent sermons is a plea which cannot be entertained for a moment.
Preaching is, in fact, an art; like painting, or playing the violin, or acting upon the stage ; and it is only those who possess the necessary natural gifts, and who have bestowed upon those gifts a proper cultivation, who can be expected to attain a mastery in the art. To make a great preacher, we want not only thorough sincerity, and a fair literary and theological education, we want the special art of arranging ideas in a manner suitable for a public address, a skill in adapting theoretical and practical truths to the peculiarities of an audience, together with the physical advantages of voice, and a natural or acquired skill in delivery. How rarely these qualifications are to be found among Englishmen, may be learnt by observing the ordinary quality of English public speaking on all kinds of secular subjects. In the Houses of Parliament, in the courts of law, in public meetings, how many are the bunglers, and how few the masters of the art of speaking! On the stage how rare is the art of good delivery, even when the matter spoken is preeminently adapted to the purpose designed ! People attack the ordinary preacher in the pulpit ; but let them listen to the ordinary serious or tragic actor upon the stage. At this present time, it would be literally impossible to get together a company of actors and actresses in all England, who could act one of Shakspeare's great tragedies without in some parts grievously offending a cultivated taste. It is the same in other matters of art.
How many great painters are there? How many great singers ? How many great performers on the pianoforte or the violin ? For one artist who can paint a great picture, there are ten who never rise above mediocrity, and perhaps fifty whose works are really worthless. And it is the same in the arts of playing and singing; the average performance is little less than disgraceful, if measured by any severe test of merit.
Granting all this, however, there remains the very serious question whether, as affairs now stand, there does not exist a certain amount of what I may call preaching power in the Church, which is either left uncultivated, or turned to very little practical purpose. There must be very many clergy to whom nature has granted the requisite gifts for becoming very good preachers, who either leave their gifts uncultivated, or who have not studied in a good school. And, further, can it be doubted for an instant, that by the present arrangements in the Church, even those whose preaching might be of immense practical value, are turned to grievously little account?
Yet, again and again it has been urged by writers of various schools, that the absurdity of this state of things is self-evident. The advantages of the parochial system are many; but now and then it works in such a fashion as to suggest nothing but the old saying about cutting blocks with a razor. It is administered on the principle that the division of labour in ecclesiastical things, means nothing more than the giving to each parish a sufficiency of clergymen in proportion to its population. A large and destitute parish is supposed to be amply supplied, if it is under the direction of a proper number of hard-working and devoted men. And the results of the existing system of Church patronage are, with a few exceptions, such that it is very much a matter of chance whether the incumbents of any parish have any special personal fitness for supplying its peculiar necessities. I am not pretending that any better scheme can be devised than that which now decides
the parochial positions of the clergy. I am only pointing out the undeniable fact, that while good preachers are few, the chances of patronage place men in circumstances, as parish clergymen, with very little heed to the amount of preaching power which does exist in the Church.
The practical inference has been often urged : some sort of provision ought to be made for turning to the best possible use those men who have studied and acquired the art of preaching. It is the worst possible waste of labour, to take a man who can do one thing well, and set him to do something else, which others can do as well as he, simply because that other thing requires somebody to do it. If the numbers of good, hard-working clergymen who can conduct the general affairs of a parish with profit are to be counted by thousands, and those who can exert a powerful influence by preaching are to be counted by hundreds, does not common sense suggest that the services of the hundreds should be put at the command of the thousands ? Is it a sensible thing when you have got a good preacher, to fix him down always to one congregation, and not make arrangements by which others also might be benefited by his services ?
Without entering upon any scheme for the education of a regular order of preachers, here is surely a practical plan for making use of such resources as we already possess. Consider the real facts of the time. Take, for instance, London alone, and calculate the number of parishes and districts in which the local clergy have their time so completely taken up with the pressure of daily work, that it is impossible for them to give anything more than a few hurried hours, or less, to the preparation of their sermons. How is it possible, under such circumstances, that they should ever be able to approach that ideal of thoroughly effective preaching which they may theoretically entertain ? How can a man whose energies are tasked to the utmost, by the mental and bodily labour of a populous cure, enter upon the composition of sermons, or persevere in his cultivation of the art of preaching, with that freshness and vigour which are necessary to success ? The preparation of even a single sermon every week requires, in truth, a considerable intellectual effort. It requires, too, unless a preacher is to go on from month to month repeating over and over again the same thoughts, and even the same phrases, a degree of constant study, and an amount of rest from other labours which it is out of the question to expect from a laborious parish priest. · Is it not clear, then, that if, in such cases, the occasional services of another preacher could be relied on, say for a couple of months together, the parochial clergy themselves would gain immensely in the way of rest, while their people would largely benefit by a short course of systematic preaching from a new source, and be brought into beneficial contact with a fresh mind ? For it is a grievous mistake to imagine that it is a healthy thing for congregations to be always confined to the sermons of the same one or two persons. To condemn the desire for variety in preachers as a morbid passion for excitement, or a discontent with the regular routine of duty, is to misunderstand the whole state of the case. In religious thought and practice, it is not well to be bound down to intercourse with one or two teachers alone, just as it is undesirable to associate in private life with only one or two acquaintances, or to read only one or two authors.
The occasional hearing of a single sermon from a strange preacher, such as is now common enough, is very far from fulfilling the object which is here in view. It has no more effect upon the habitual religious life of a congregation than a single full meal has upon the general health of a half-starved man, or a single dose of a tonic upon a sickly invalid. Every zealous clergyman is aware that in all congregations, however excellent the influences to which they are subjected, there is a tendency, after a time, to sink down into a kind of monotony of thought and weariness of feeling. In fact, the mind
needs occasional change of air in the way of religious thought, just as the body needs occasional change of atmospheric air for bodily health. And six weeks' or two months' weekly intercourse with a new mind acts upon the mental system as a tonic, and braces it up for the rest of the year, exactly as six weeks or two months at the sea-side freshens and braces up the body and its companion, the mind, for the ordinary labours of daily life.
Is there not reason to think, indeed, that the break-down, partial or complete, of so many laborious clergymen, and their premature incapacity for hard parochial work, is often due to the demand for more preaching than they are physically equal to ? Such men have, too often, no real rest at all. What with the sick, and the poor, and the schools, and the Sunday and week-day services, and the marriages and christenings, and the parochial institutions which are now so general, the willing labourer has already more than he can get through without exhausting efforts; and when to this work is added the necessity of preparing from fifty to a hundred sermons a year, with the excitement of preaching them, who can wonder that constitutions which are not extraordinarily strong so often give way beneath the pressure ?
If it is asked, “How are such preachers, who have no parochial duty of their own, to be paid ?” the answer is ready. There are the prebends and canonries of the cathedrals ready at hand for their support. If anything is the special business of canons and prebendaries, it is preaching. And the fact that such dignitaries confine their preaching only to their own cathedrals, is merely one fresh illustration of the want of forethought through which the resources of the Church, both in men and money, are allowed to run to waste. There is no reason in the nature of things, except our slavish adherence to tradition, why men whose inclinations and studies lead them to devote themselves to preaching, should not be made canons and prebendaries on the distinct condition that they give themselves to the assistance of the parochial clergy. There are also very many livings, in London and elsewhere, in which the income is altogether out of proportion to the small population, and where the routine parish work might be undertaken by well-paid curates, while the surplus revenues were devoted to the support of an incumbent whose special work was preaching. The average disproportion of labour to remuneration, which is one of the most serious internal evils of the Church, might, in truth, by this arrangement be, in some slight degree, modified. All that is needed is, that we should open our eyes to the real necessities of the time, and turn to the best practical account the vast resources which, after all, are still at the disposal of the Church of England.
J. M. CAPES.
MR. WALLACE ON THE CONSERVATION OF
The Malay Archipelago. By A. R. WALLACE. 2 Vols. London:
Macmillan & Co. 1869.
“THE Reproach of Civilization and the Opprobrium of Chris
tianity”—such has more than once been the taunt, but too well deserved, cast against the treatment of aboriginal races by the governments and colonists of the nations of modern Europe. That, as a general rule, the indigenous races of every part of the earth have pined and withered at the touch of civilization, and have very soon utterly perished, we know too well. Indeed, so uniform has been the result of colonization, that many have begun to accept it as a sort of law of nature, and to assume that the decay and extinction of every aboriginal race before the presence of the white man is a necessity, mournful perhaps, but not the less inevitable.
This theory may, at first sight, appear to be borne out by the fact that a similar result attends the introduction of European species of the lower forms of life, whether animal or vegetable, into peculiar and circumscribed areas. It would seem that localized forms of life are ill-fitted to maintain the struggle for existence when they come in contact with more cosmopolitan types. This has been especially the case with insular species. Thus the ebony tree of St. Helena, a wood peculiar to the island, and never found elsewhere, which clothed its mountain sides scarcely a century agone, is now so utterly extirpated, that the only subsisting proof of its former existence is the dried specimen of the plant in the herbarium at Kew, and a few