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ANECDOTES OF THE PULPIT.
“ I say the PULPIT (in the sober use
WHAT IS TRUTH ? Father FULGENTIO, the friend and biographer of the celebrated Paul Sarpi, both of them secret friends to the progress of religious reformation, was once preaching upon Pilate's question, “ What is truth ?” He told the audience that he had at last, after many searches, found it out, and holding forth a New Testament, said, “Here it is, my friends ;" but added sorrowfully, as he returned it to his pocket, “ It is a sealed book.”. It has been since the glory of the reformation to break the seal which priestly craft had imposed upon it, and to lay its blessed treasures open to the universal participation of mankind.
The practice of reading sermons from the pulpit is now so common, that were a minister of the established church to preach extemporaneously, he would subject himself to the imputation of being a Sectarian, and would be regarded in the diocese with almost as much jealousy as if he had violated the whole of the articles in the rubric. This custom, now so prevalent, was well reproved by Charles II. who issued the following ordinance on the subject, to the University of Cambridge.
VICE CHANCELLOR AND GENTLEMEN---Whereas his majesty is informed, that the practice of reading sermons is generally taken up by the preachers before the University, and therefore continues even before himself; his majesty hath commanded me to signify to you his pleasure, that the said practice, which took its beginning from the disorders of the late times, be wholly laid aside; and that the said preachers deliver their sermons, both in Latin and English, by memory without book ; as being a way of preaching which his majesty judgeth most agreeable to the use of foreign churches, to the custom of the University heretofore, and to the nature of that holy exercise. And that his majesty's command in these premises may be duly regarded and observed, his further pleasure is, that the names of all such ecclesiastical persons as shall continue the present supine and slothful way of preaching, be, from time to time, signified to me by the Vice-Chancellor for the time being, on pain of his majesty's displeasure. October 8, 1674.
“MONMOUTH." The practice of reading sermons must not, however, be too unreservedly condemned. It is often more a matter of necessity than choice. Dr. Sanderson, so well known for his“ Cases of Conscience,”had an extraordinary memory, but was so bashful and timorous withal, that it was of no use in the delivery of his sermons, which he was in a manner compelled to read. Dr. Hammond being once on a visit to him, laboured to persuade him to trust to his excellent meniory, and to give up the habit of reading. Dr. Sanderson promised to make the experiment; and as he went to church on the Sunday following, put into Dr. Hammond's hands the manuscript of the sermon be intended to deliver. The sermon was a very short one; but before the doctor had gone through a third part of it, he became disorderod, incoherent, and almost incapable of finishing. On his returu, he said, with much earnestness, to Dr. H. “Good doctor, give me my sermon, and know, that neither you, nor any man living, shall ever persuade me to preach again without book.” Hammond replied, “Good doctor, be not angry; for if I ever persuade you to preach again without book, I will give you leave to burn all those that I am master of.”
Aubrey says, that when he was a freshman at college, and heard Dr. S. read his first lecture, he was out in the Lord's Prayer !
It was remarked, when his sermons were printed, in 1632, that “the best sermons that were ever read, were never preached.”
Even the great Massilon once stopped short in the middle of a sermon from defect of memory; and the same thing happened through excess of apprehension, to two other preachers, whom Massilon went in different parts of the same day to hear.
HOUR-GLASSES. Prolixity is one of the very common arts for obtaining popularity. The ignorant are too apt to estimate the value of preaching like that of more worldly matter, by the quantity rather than the quality ; and by a fondness for large doses, get more often intoxicated than refreshed. “Immoderate length, in all kinds of religious offices,” says Dr. Campbell, in his Lectures on the Pastoral Character, “has ever had an influence on weak and superstitious minds; and for this reason, those who have hypocritically affected the religious character, have ever chosen to distinguish theniselves by this circumstance. The Pharisees, who made use of religion as a cover to their pride and extortion, for a pretence,” as our Lord tells us, “made long prayers.” He who never spoke a word in vain, did not add the epithet,“ long," unmeaningly ; the length of their devotions, as well as the breadth of their phylacteries, and the largeness of the fringes at the corners of their garments, were all so many engines of their craft.”
Dr. South, speaking of some popular leaders who rivalled one another in respect of their influence on the multitude, takes notice of a new sort of gymnastic exercise in which they engaged, unheard of among the ancients, wbich he denominates, emphatically enough, “preaching prises ;” that is, as it would seem, vieing with one another who shall hold forth longest.
“Can any thing," as Dr. Campbell asks truly, “ of the nature, use, and end of preaching be understood or regarded, where such a pharasaic trick is put in practice?” It may be said, that the appetite of some persons is here insatiable. Depend on it, wherever that is the case, it is a false appetite, and followed by no digestion. The whole significancy of those exercises to such, is the time spent in them, and the transient emotions they feel when thus employed.”
For the purpose of restraining preachers in the length of their sermons, hour-glasses were introduced nearly about the same period as the reformation.,
In the frontispiece prefixed to the Holy Bible of the bishop's translation, imprinted by John Day, 1569, 4to. Archbishop Parker is represented with an hour-glass standing on his right hand. Clocks and watches being then but rarely in use, the hour-glass was had recourse to, as the only convenient remembrancer which the state of the arts could supply. The practice of using them became generally prevalent, and continued to the tiine of the revolution in 1688 ; the hour-glass was placed either on a side of the pulpit, or on a stand in front of it. “ One whole houreglasse, ,” “One halfe houre-glasse,” occur in an inventory taken about 1632, of the goods and implements belonging to the church of All Saints, New