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The serjeants are a grateful race,
And all their actions show it:
Those were emphatically the days of written sermons, for the most part recurring with the regularity of a repeating decimal. Litera scripta manet; and most congregations had ample opportunity of verifying in their own experience the essential permanence of the written letter. These ancestral discourses, yellow with age and curly from the fingering of many generations of orators, came to be almost as well known as the details of a nursery legend, until at last the hearers grew to resent the slightest verbal alteration in the text. A mingled feeling took possession of their minds. They could not hon
that they have of late years perceptibly | the old and almost forgotten epigram on improved-improved certainly as regards the serjeants-at-law, themselves now welllength. The traditional answer of the nigh extinct: man with eleven children, that he had "better than a dozen," was no doubt misleading. Not so the "better than an hour sermon of the olden time. I remember still my childish horror when our good old rector used to mount the pulpit, and, hooking himself on to the oaken panel by the third finger of his right hand (which, by a strange coincidence, chanced to have a diamond ring upon it), would there remain, tenacious as a crustacean of his position physical and theological, until the hand of the clock in front of the gallery pointed to one. Even then it was by no means certain that he would unhook himself. There might still be the "one word more, my brethren," which gave my childish mind such a terrible idea of the expansiveness of unity. In that dreary waste of theology the only fixed thing was the longitude. For the rest, the rec-estly assert that they loved the sermon; tor's great aim seemed to be always to begin at the beginning, or, if possible, a little before it. It was seldom that he would content himself with anything so far advanced in point of time as the fall of man. He was fonder of chaos, and occasionally took us back behind the creation altogether.
but if they must have it at all, they liked it unmutilated. Familiarity might have bred a something of contempt, but nothing was to be gained by a patchwork effort at disguise. Besides, they felt in a way defrauded of their due. Long prescription had given them an indefeasible right to the sermon, the whole sermon, and nothHis greatest sermon (we had it many ing but the sermon. In those good old times over) was on the text: "They shall conservative days men had no yearning offer young bullocks upon thine altar." for revised versions. Children freely corEach word of the text formed a separate rect their nurse if she deviates by a hair's heading. Due force was given to the breadth from the accustomed course of "pronoun," to the "particle of futurity," the adventures of Tom Thumb or Jack to the "verb of oblation," to the "adjec- the Giant-killer; and the older members tive of youth," to the "bovine substan- of a congregation felt inclined to do the tive," to the "preposition" (copiously same with their rector if he ever ventured illustrated from the Latin grammar), and to tamper with his time-honored manufinally to the "sacrificial locality." Did I script. A parenthesis might be pardoned, say "finally "?—I was wrong; it was only especially if founded on some State anni"lastly." The "finally " came long after-versary; an alteration never. How much wards, and even then left room for "in unconscious truth lay in the ignorant conclusion" and the "one word more." grandiloquence of the farmer whom I once Another of his great sermons, though heard say to his vicar, "You gave us a not so great as the above, was professedly very good rotation to-day, sir," meaning on Dives and Lazarus. It was really on presumably "oration"! the purple and fine linen incidentally mentioned in the parable. These excited all the worthy rector's sense of scholarship, and he gave an exhaustive disquisition on both. The only purpureus pannus, or bit of color, in it for me was his account (is it true or apocryphal? — I know not) of the discovery of the Tyrian dye a wandering dog licking a murex upon the seashore and getting its tongue stained therewith to the great astonishment of its master. I wonder the rector did not go on to quote
It is true that comical results sometimes followed. There is a well-known story, probably apocryphal, of a South American clergyman, who, even when preaching in England, could seldom keep an earthquake out of his discourse. It is, however, a fact that a clergyman in Nottinghamshire, who had been a naval chaplain, electrified his congregation one Sunday by exclaiming, "When we hear, as we do now, the waves roaring around us— This roused even the farmers, who fancied
But we are told: "At least a man can
at once that the little river which flows | faculty of composition. Instead of copythrough the village must have suddenly ing piecemeal, he copies wholesale. Is he, burst its banks and flooded their meadows. therefore, more of a plagiarist than the In reality the exciting phrase had slipped other two? Who shall venture to affirm out unawares; it was only a too slavish it? Let him who would do so first pubadherence to the text of a manuscript lish to the world one so-called original written in widely different circumstances thought of his own. The chances are it that had led the worthy pastor to make will be found already in print. this startling announcement. And then, the interchange of manu-made the ideas of another his own, assimscripts. At first sight there is much to ilate them, give them the stamp of his own be said for this. If an interchange of personality, and issue them, as it were, preachers is a good thing, why not the fresh from his own mint." So he can, and interchange of sermons? Eight ounces probably spoil them in the process. Why of ruled paper will go farther, without should he feel constrained to do so? Why necessarily faring worse, than fifteen or should he not select the best and leave sixteen stone of ecclesiastically developed them as he found them? Is the butter humanity. And is it not a clear waste of any the better because you change the force to leave a well-composed sermon to stamp of the dairy to that of the retail languish in the recesses of a desk, when dealer? Surely the only important thing it might be doing good work in another is to see that, however stamped, it be genparish? At the same time it cannot be uine butter and not oleomargarine. denied that this interchange of manuscripts has its drawbacks. Circumstances are not identical in different parishes. The vicar of a squireless village denounces Dives with absolute impunity. But let him lend his scathing discourse to the clerical friend who numbers a millionaire among his people, and the chances are that the friend will find himself arraigned before his bishop. It actually happened in Oxfordshire in the days of Bishop Wilberforce. It is true the clergyman triumphed, but the triumph was not without its humiliation. There could be no personal vindictiveness in a borrowed discourse. But if he disproved the appropriateness, he had to admit the appropriation. Personality or plagiarism -a sorry dilemma for any parson.
Still, after all, it is not very reasonable that there should be such an outcry against borrowed sermons. Where does any one get his ideas from? Unless a whole school of philosophers is in the wrong, we come into the world with minds blank as sheets of white paper. Who but a German ever evolved anything from his inner consciousness? Is not, in fact, all our knowledge borrowed? One man sits down and writes off a discourse almost without reference to books. Is he, therefore, original? Not a bit of it. He has only proved that he possesses a well-stored mind and a retentive memory. Another surrounds himself with commentaries, and painfully pieces together a bit of pulpit mosaic. What memory did for the first, ingenuity does for the second. A third has neither the gift of recollection nor the
What is really wanted is little more courage on the part of the clergy age to give their people always a first-rate article, whether of home or foreign manufacture. By all means let them say whence they derive their inspiration. Prudence would dictate this candor, if it were recommended by no higher motive. To every church comes sooner or later the perambulatory pedant, ever on the scent of plagiarism. One such, coming to a church in days gone by, visibly disconcerted the preacher by muttering audibly at the end of each glowing paragraph the name of its original composer. South," "Tillotson,' ""Barrow," Hooker," dropping from his lips, revealed to the astonished congregation the sources of their pastor's eloquence. At last the rector's patience was exhausted, and he appealed to the secular arm in the person of the verger. "Jones, turn that man out!" "Your own!" murmured the stranger, still faithful to his principle of giving the authority for every sentence the rector uttered.
This was a species of marginal reference such as no divine could desire; but some of those old sermons were graced with marginal notes of their own much on the principle of the verbal directions in a music-score. Looking over such an one, which in its day had been preached before royalty itself, I came across such pencilled memoranda in the margin as these:" Drop voice!" “ Drop it!" "Whisper," thetic-shake!" "Louder!" "Ore rotundo," and so forth. For the rest, a very tame, long-winded discourse, with
"Watch and pray," says the text: "Go to sleep," says the sermon.
sentences languidly meandering over | By our parson perplext, say, how shall we dewhole pages, and needing doubtless special management of the voice to convey any meaning at all to the royal listener. Let us hope that these well-modulated prescriptions lent it a little of the life it so sorely needed.
And in the other,
The clue to their meaning I never have found;
Nowadays, however, written sermons seem gradually to be falling into something like disrepute, and extemporary discourses are all the rage. Many, alas! Perhaps, on an impartial review of the only too obviously extemporary - crea-whole case, the balance of educated opintures of the moment both in their genesis ion will not always be found in favor of the and their effect. It is perhaps hardly an modern extemporaneousness. True, it unmixed advantage that of late years it fascinates the vulgar. To them it savors a has dawned upon the consciousness of little of the supernatural Their own procEnglish ecclesiastics that, after all, there esses of thought are so labored, and their is nothing so very difficult in stringing delivery of opinions is so slow and slipwords together when you are in an erect shod, that the continuous flow of words posture. What some one called "the fac- from a man without a book seems to them ulty of thinking on your hind legs " is a little short of miraculous. In their eyes widely different matter. Loquacity is the to read is human, to extemporize divine. birthright of the many, thought the pre- It matters not that what is read may be a rogative of the few. And as long as this masterpiece, and what is said mere sound is so, have we not a right to shudder at and fury, signifying nothing save the rostrictly extemporaneous discourse, wheth- bust self-possession of the speaker and the er in the pulpit or on the platform? Bishop fine working condition of his lungs. On Wilberforce lived to regard it as a mis- the other hand, there have been those who take that he had recommended his clergy have regarded the use of a written sermon as a body to acquire the habit of extempo- in the pulpit as a matter of positive oblirary preaching. He found that such dis- gation. Of such sort was the eccentric courses too often come from the heart country gentleman who expressed his only, in the sense of not proceeding from astonishment that "any clergyman should the brain. The method of fabricating venture into the presence of his Maker them is in many cases as strictly mechan- without a manuscript ". a gentleman ical as the knack of making Latin verses. who must, one fancies, have been a not The memory is stored with scraps and very remote kinsman of the northern tags which are loosely fitted together into archdeacon who wrote to a rural vicar to sentences by an ingenious process which reprove him for "approaching his archdevolves all mental labor upon the listener. deacon on a postcard." Talk of the fatal facility of octosyllabic - what is that to the fatal facility of the preaching which, unrestrained by manuscript, floods the pews with mere sonorous platitudes ?
It is conceivable that a sermon, even a good one, is not an essential part of Christian worship, and that men may, without being ethnics, prefer Robertson in the study to Robinson in the pulpit. Can there be no true devoutness unless the devotee be at all times willing either to act the lotus-eater, "falling asleep in a half dream" under the narcotic influence of the written sermon, or to grow distracted as he tries to follow the kaleidoscope that the extemporaneous orator twirls mechanically before his mental vision must he be at all times willing, I say, to bear one or other of these, or else be reckoned an outcast from the fold? May he not plead in excuse for his conduct, in the one case,
No doubt we must all allow that, other things being equal, the spoken sermon sounds fresher than the written. "Which do you prefer?" asked a clergyman once of a famous statesman. "I prefer," said the statesman, "a written sermon delivered as if it were unwritten." This is an ideal seldom attained; it was attained, in a way perhaps, by Bellew; in another way by Chalmers; and, according to some authorities, by Melvill.
Of course sermons are not nowadays so long as they used to be. If you want one an hour long, your only hope is to attend a Bampton Lecture, or to chance on Canon Liddon at his longest. In the latter case you will not, however, be fatigued, but will merely fancy that your watch has played you a trick when you consult it at the end of the discourse.
In fact, in some quarters we have in these latter days gone to the opposite ex
treme. The age prides itself on its con- | rable occasion, he voluntarily sat with the ciseness. Our correspondence is largely servants. conducted in telegrams of twelve words; In conclusion, there are some who mainour news is absorbed through summaries, tain that the day of sermons is already or even bills of contents. The man of over- - that they are even now to be rebusiness has no leisure to sit down to garded as a mere survival (not the fittest) lunch; how should he swallow theology by of a time when they formed the natural the hour? "Do you think," asked one of and almost exclusive means of conveying the newest patterns in curates of his some- religious instruction. Now, however (so what older vicar, "do you think, if I it is said), the universal spread of educapreached for ten minutes in the morning, tion and the multiplication of popular reI should be too — long?" Decidedly," ligious books enable every one who desires answered the vicar, who possessed the it to get a better sermon at home than in priceless quality called presence of mind, his parish church. Thus their function is decidedly. In a church like ours it is superseded and their necessity is at an quite sufficient for the preacher to mount end. It may be so. The world does the pulpit, and having uttered a fervent move, and the once crawling decades now 'Dearly beloved,' to descend again. Brev- career like race-horses. But at the moity is the soul of wit and the essence of ment I do not see that we have reached a preaching." It was fair satire as times stage when the human voice and the hugo. I have in my possession, as one of man personality have ceased to count as the latest products of this lightning age, a factors in influencing society. The best volume of sermons actually preached in a book is, after all, but the dead deposit of church at a fashionable watering-place. the brain- a wondrous tissue, woven on Few of these could have taken more than the loom of molecules, but no longer in five minutes to deliver. I will not name vital union with its creator. It can never the church. Why should I aggravate the compete in force and influence with the congestion from which it already suffers ? living impact of an earnest soul. And so It is not, however, every congregation sermons, changing doubtless in their charwhich, even in these enlightened days, acter to suit the mood of changing times, possesses such a treasure. In an average may well have a long and useful future church the sermon still touches, or almost | before them. In this paper I have retouches, the twentieth minute. What garded them only in some of their lighter would good Bishop Latimer have said to this dwindling of the candle he lighted? he, "who, preaching by the measured hour, was oft-times entreated to reverse the hour-glass," and to give his enraptured auditors another sixty minutes.
And as the length of the discourse has been changed, so has been the style. It is true, there is not now quite so much learning or even exactness as formerly. I should never have heard from my old rector what I heard a preacher say not long ago, "God is self-sufficient," meaning, I presume," self-sufficing." Nor should
aspects. In their graver they are like the
From Chambers' Journal. RICHARD CABLE,
I have heard, as I did from another BY THE AUTHOR OF "MEHALAH," "JOHN HERRING,"
66 COURT ROYAL, ETC.
preacher, the conduct of God toward Abraham described as 66 fulsome," meaning possibly full of love and graciousness who shall say? But at least we have animation and sprightliness. It is surely NEXT morning, Josephine found a cab worth while to have lived in the latter awaiting her. Cable had paid her bill and half of the nineteenth century, if only to sent the conveyance for her. He had have heard, as has been heard in a uni- given instructions to the driver to convey versity pulpit, a bishop talk of the Al- her along the Okehampton and Launcesmighty's raison d'être and his freedom ton road beyond the town to a point where, from arrière pensée. And I have myself at the head of the first hill, stood a frag. lived to hear St. Peter denounced in the ment of an old stone cross. She had fanpulpit by a doctor of divinity as being cied that he would have come with his van fond of low society, because, on a memo- of calves into the cathedral yard, drawn
up before the Clarendon Hotel, and had her box laden on the van there; but Richard Cable had too much delicacy under his roughness of manner to subject her to such a humiliation; she was to leave the Clarendon as she had come to it, in a hired conveyance, and as a lady; only when beyond the town would he receive her box and her on his van.
She reached the cross before him, and dismounted. When she opened her purse, the driver objected - he had already received his fare; the man who had ordered him had paid. Josephine had her box placed by the side of the road. A little inn stood near the cross, and the landlady good-naturedly asked her to step in, if she were waiting for the coach. "No charge, miss; you needn't take anything." Thank you,' said Josephine modestly; you are very kind; but I am not going by the coach. A gentleman-I mean a man who drives a van of calves, is going to pick me up.'
"Oh, you mean Dicky Cable. He often goes by our way."
"Yes; I am going on with Mr. Cable." As she spoke, she saw the cob, and Cable limping at its side, ascending the red road cut between banks of red sandstone hung with ferns and overarched with rich limes. "He looks very greatly changed," said Josephine to herself "oldened, hardened, and somewhat lame."
Presently he came up. Rain had fallen in the night, and the red mud was splashed about his boots and the wheels of the van. The calves within put their noses between the bars and lowed; they were frightened by the motion of the vehicle; but they were not hungry, for they had been fed by Cable before starting. He scarcely said good-morning to Josephine; it was mumbled, but he touched his hat to her. Then he shouldered her travelling-box and put it on the top of the van. This van consisted of a sort of pen or cage on wheels; the sides and top were constructed like a cage, with bars of wood, and between the bars the air got to the calves, and the calves were visible. There was a seat in front, and the door into the pen was behind it let down so as to form an inclined plane, up and down which the calves could walk, when driven into or out of the cage. How was Josephine to be accommodated in such a contrivance? Was she to go into the cage among the calves, or to be slung under the conveyance between the wheels, or to be perched on the top, as in an omnibus? Richard pointed with his whip to the driver's seat.
"Am I to sit there?" she asked. He nodded.
"Then where do
you sit? He got upon the shaft, as a carter perches himself.
"I do not like to take your place," said Josephine. "You will be very uncomfortable there."
"It is not the first time you have made me uncomfortable. Sit where I have put you. I must be off every few minutes when we come to a hill; then I walk." That was he limped. His thigh was well, but he never could walk with it as formerly. It gave him no pain, and his movements were not ungainly, but there was a decided limp as he walked.
He was not in a mood for conversation. Josephine could touch him as he sat at her feet on the shaft with his back to her. He did not once look round; he went about his work, driving, walking, attending to the calves, as if he were quite alone. Nevertheless, he must have thought of her, for when he came to a piece of road newly stoned, he went leisurely, and glanced furtively behind not at her face
to see that the jolting did not hurt her; and when a shower came on, without a word he threw his waterproof coat over her knees. Presently they came to a long ascent. He got down and walked. She also descended, and walked on the other side from him. She wondered whether his silence would continue the whole way, whether he would relax his sternness.
The journey was tedious; the cob travelled slowly, and the stoppages were long, whilst farmers haggled with Richard over the price of the calves. The sale of these latter did not, however, begin till the road left the red sandstone and approached Dartmoor. The yeomen and farmers in proximity to the moor were a thriving race; they could send any number of young cattle to run on the moor at a nominal fee to the moormen that is, to certain fellows who had the privilege to guard the vast waste of rock and down, of mountain and valley, under the Prince of Wales as Duke of Cornwall; for Dartmoor forest is duchy property though situated in Devon, and indeed occupying its heart. To the present day, it is about the borders of the moor that the old yeoman is still to be found, occupying in many cases his ancestral farm, the buildings of which date back three or four hundred years. They consist of a large quadrangle; one side is occupied by the dwelling-house, that looks into the yard, but is divided from it by a small raised garden.