Imágenes de páginas

aggeration and nationality, so much Maury goes on to give us a dis, of substantial truth in his remarks, sertation on the discourses of Tillotthat we may well learn some useful son, with a few touches upon Barrow lessons, while we duly writhe under and others, all tending to the same the castigation. Maury says, that argument. He concludes his animany English sermons are highly ra- madversions with similar strictures tiocinative and logical, but that they upon Blair; respecting whom he says, are lifeless, and without emotion; that the Gospel of Christ is only ache knew of none calculated to eli- cessary in his discourses, “the exclucit either tears or admiration; they sive object of which is a philosophical are cold, and dry, and nerveless; morality, purely human, a theory rathey are repellent disquisitions; ther than a law.” He treats, says mere ethical dissertations, not only Maury, upon gentleness, upon the tame as compared with the eleva- duties of youth and age, upon the adtion of the higher species of French vantages of order, the government of eloquence, but even as compared the heart, the love of praise, candour, with such works as the “Moral the advantages of visiting the house Essays” of Nicole, or the Abbé of mourning, sensibility, honour, Fleury's “ Duties of Soldiers.” He firmness, the creation, distaste of elsewhere tells us that the English life, luxury, curiosity, fashion, friendpul after having been for a long ship, tranquillity of mind; "but time an arena for polemics, had after- rarely, or never, upon the precepts wards become almost exclusively of Christian morals, upon the paraa school for the moralities of civil mount interests of eternity; in short, life; in proof of which he ranges upon none of the great topics which through the host of the Boyle Lec- more peculiarly belong to the Christurers, from Bentley to Derham, tian pulpit.” This censure is not including Kidder, Williams, Gas- equally applicable to all the subjects trell, Blackal, Harris, Stanhope, mentioned by Maury; for some of the two Clarkes, and Whiston. He them are perfectly susceptible of seems to think it unaccountable that being treated in the full spirit of the the writers of these celebrated lec. New Testament; but the general tures did not even seek to be elo- strain of the remark, is, we lament quent, which, however, he supposes to say, too well founded : and we would be an unpardonable scandal quite agree with Maury, that this in a minister of the Gospel in Lon. substitution of classical ethics for don. He admits that these dis- the peculiarities of the Gospel of courses refute Atheism and Deism, Christ, is not less fatal to genuine defend Christianity, point out the pulpit eloquence, than to the grand causes of infidelity, explain the pro. design of the ministerial function. phetic æras, and shew the respective We wish we could say with truth, offices of faith and reason; that that the date at which these centhey are erudite and solid; and are sures were applicable to our English, fine models of dialectics and criti- and, we may add, Scottish and Irish cism: but they have the style and pulpits, has passed away. We indeed the frigidness of a treatise on juris. devoutly bless God, that of late years prudence; they defend Christianity there has been in the three kingas if in an argument before the doms a wide diffusion of truly evanjudges; they soar above the con gelical sentiment, which has chased prehension of common auditors; from a large number of our pulpits they have no power over the ima- the frigidity of merely human ethics, gination, the feelings, the heart. and warmed and animated large and They have nothing of tenderness, attentive auditories with the cheerof pathos, of persuasiveness. They ing beams of the Sun of Righteousare as lucid, but as cold, as a frosty ness. But to this hour the reforstar-light night.

mation is far from complete ; and,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

even where it is complete as to are induced, before we return sentiment, where a really Christian homewards, to notice a curious fact strain of preaching has been intro which he has recorded respecting duced, though the change has been the decadence of the French pulpit. very generally accompanied with It would seem that, since the time a great increase of simplicity, fer- of Massillon the French Catholic vour, and true pulpit eloquence (for preachers have materially altered we mean not any thing tawdry or their style of preaching. The alostentatious), yet much remains to teration is somewhat similar to that be effected before our long cherished which took place in our own counnational habits will be altogether try about the age of Charles the Semoulded into a perfect system. A cond. Formerly the French preachdiscourse on faith, or sanctification, ers, though grievously misled by may be as coldly didactic, as dis- the false doctrines of the Church quisitional

, as little calculated to of Rome, insisted largely upon what rivet the attention, to interest the they considered to be the doctrines affections, or to warm the heart of Scripture ; they dwelt much upon as a dissertation upon “the moral “the mysteries of religion;" they sense,” or “the fitness of things.” urged upon men their duties, or Preachers should ever remember what they considered to be their that the understanding is not the duties, not from the maxims of only inlet to the human mind; men ethicism, but from the dictates of need as much to be aroused and the inspired code, corrupted, it is borne along by affecting sentiments true, and mixed up with much that and glowing appeals as to be ar- was unsound and superstitious, but gumentatively instructed. Some still so far giving a theological air French preachers err by making to their discourses, that they reimpression every thing; some Bri- sembled rather the addresses of tish ones, by making it almost no- some of the fathers than the Morals thing. “I would make you feel,” of Seneca or the Offices of Cicero.

or Fenelon: “I They were not ashamed of the would make you understand and science of divinity, as such, though believe,” says Barrow or Tillotson: their divinity was the perverted “I would, by the grace of God, make system of Rome instead of the pure you do both,” says the fervid and evangelism of the Scriptures. We « well instructed” evangelist, who are as far as possible from defendmakes the Scriptures his model, ing either their doctrines or their neither taking his logic from the choice of subjects: but whether schools, nor his eloquence from they preached upon saints, relics, the rhetoricians; but both from the or upon the fasts and festivals of word of God, which is “ quick and their church, it was always clear powerful, and sharper than any two- that they had heard of Christianity, edged sword.”

and believed in it, and thought it of Let no man lend himself to a di- infinite importance, and that they gression till he has well calculated had no doubt respecting any of the where it may lead him. We have, articles of the Apostles' Creed, or inadvertently, begun one, and must the confession of Nice, however they therefore follow it up. Our object might misinterpret them ; they had was with Mr. Jerram's funeral ser- much to say, though blended with mon for Dr. Good, which we pro- anti-scriptural errors, upon grace posed to introduce with a few re- and pardon, and heaven and hell; marks upon that interesting, but in short, they shewed that, although difficult, species of composition; but they were Papists, they were also Cardinal Maury having taken us Christians, according to their noby the band through a somewhat tions of Christianity; none of which longer course than we intended, we points are very clearly to be ascer

says Massillon

tained in some of the addresses duties; or those topics which are which have passed under the title very well for a letter, but not for a of " sermons" in the Protestant sermon; or those which turn mochurch. Their views respecting the rality into pompous declamation, in choice of subjects for their pulpit which the heart feels no interest; addresses, as compared with those or philosophical topics, equally alien of our own “ moral preachers,” to religion and to eloquence; topics may be inferred from the advice fitter for the Portico or the Lycæum which even Maury, who certainly than for the Christian pulpit, and had no very correct perception of which give rise to discourses in scriptural truth, gives to ministers which a Cosmopolitan orator needs when urging his clerical country- make no change to adapt them, with men to return back to the practice as much propriety, to a Mohamof their fathers. He reminds them medan mosque, or an Indian pathat, even as respects the most goda.” We may sum up the whole painful topics of the Christian mi- in the expressive words of Bossuet, nistry, their duty is clear; for that “ Dilatez, dilatez vos talents du “ religion is founded on those awful côté du ciel ;" or in the inspired verities which its ministers must declaration of the Apostle, “ When not shun to declare, though men I came among you, I came not shrink from listening to them, in with enticing words of man's wisthe very proportion in which they dom, but in demonstration of the are powerful for effecting striking spirit and of power; that your faith conversions.” At the same time, should not stand in the wisdom of he adds, let the ministers of Christ men, but in the power of God.” remember that they are not heralds It seems then that the great of vengeance, but messengers of masters of French pulpit eloquence mercy; that they are not to repel were generally accustomed to select sinners, but, by the terrors of the for their compositions such subjects Lord, to persuade them; “to in- as those which Maury specifies. terpose” (the expressions are rather Now the remarkable fact which we Catholic than Protestant) “ between have above alluded to is, that, acthe Judge and the guilty ; to obtain cording to Maury, it was chiefly grace and pardon for the penitent the celebrated Petit-Carême ser. and heart broken;" to threaten mons of Massillon which, contrary only to soften; and to temper the both to his own doctrine and to his rigours of the law with the attrac- own example, caused that great tions of Divine mercy.“ With this change in the topics of pulpit ad. just mixture,” he says, “ choose for dress which began to take place your sermons those strictly reli- about a hundred years since, and gious subjects which bring you which was, in the end, as fatal to into the closest contact with the eloquence as to Christianity. For consciences of your auditors ; which many years previous to the French constantly surround them with the Revolution, the Gallican church had horizon of eternity; which embrace not furnished a single preacher of all the grand interests of the Chris- extraordinary celebrity; its Bostian man. Shun those intermediate suet, its Bridaine, its Massillon, subjects which shut up the preacher its Fléchier, its Bourdaloue, had in too narrow bounds; which do passed off the stage of life, and not directly depend upon the pre- had left behind them no equal succepts of the Gospel; which you

We shall give, in subcannot connect with religion ex- stance, Maury's account of this decept by some elaborate subtlety, cadence, as far as relates to the or attenuated thread of junction effect of Massillon's Petit-Carême “Choose not for your subject," he lectures; for, though he attributes afterwards adds, « decencies, but too much to that single cause, bis


[ocr errors][merged small]

detail is too curious not to deserve chose a new path. Hitherto the consideration. We believe that the ecclesiastical calendar had furnished spirit of infidelity which, long be- the current subjects of Catholic fore the period of the Revolution, had preaching; and the chief of these begun, secretly, to infest the French not being peculiar to the Church of national church, was one chief cause Rome, but the common property of of the downfal of pulpit eloquence Christianity, the leading dogmata in that country. Men could not of the creed had been periodically preach with zeal what they did not brought before the people. They firmly believe; and those who were had heard much of the first and thus circumstanced would seek a second advent of our Lord; of his refuge from the appropriate topics incarnation, and sufferings, and of the Christian pulpit, in the frigid death, and resurrection, and ascengeneralities which mere moral phi- sion; of the doctrine of the Trinity losophy or metaphysics could fur- in unity; of death and judgment, of nish.

heaven and heil. But Massillon Massillon, after having obtained selected for his subject the conduct the highest reputation as a divine of the great; and he did this, and preacher, for his pastoral dis- doubtless, with the best intention courses and episcopal charges, was of adapting his discourses to the invited by the regency, in the year circumstances of his auditory, and 1718, to preach at the chapel of with a real zeal and faithfulness the Thuilleries before Louis XV., which did him great honour. But, who was then only eight years old, at the same time, he was led to and had never heard a sermon. compose moral essays rather than Massillon being charged with this Christian sermons: there was not delicate commission, and fearing that more of the Gospel, exclusively the, discourses which had been so considered, in his discourses than much admired fourteen years be- in Dr. Johnson's Rambler, or the fore by the old court were too graver papers of the Spectator. His long for the present occasion ; and morality, even in the judgment of his perhaps, adds Maury, a little too countryman and panegyrist Maury, ascetic for an auditory so much purely human,"

We should changed since the year 1704, when somewhat qualify the epithet "purehe preached his last course at Ver- ly;" but certain at least it is, that sailles ; sat down to compose, and there was so little of the offence in three or four months, says Maury, of the Cross" in his discourses, that (the prefacer to his works says six they became the delight, not only weeks, wrote his celebrated Petit- of the votaries, male and female, Carême discourses. The impres- of a dissipated court, but even of sion made by them was wholly un professed infidels, particularly Volparalleled : Bossuet himself had taire, who speaks of them with never been received with such greater rapture than of any other popular enthusiasm : the eloquent prose composition in the French Bishop of Clermont and his dis- language. Maury says rather secourses were the theme of every verely, “ How often must the concircle ; his originality, the fervid sciences of the dissolute courtiers of charm of his pastoral eloquence, the regency have thanked Massillon his pure, his simple, his enchanting for not disturbing the infected dregs style, enriched with Scripture dic- of their vices, for not dragging them tion; his magic colouring, his bar- before the tribunal of the Sovereign mony, his variety, bis elegance, his Judge, for dissipating their remorse tenderness towards the infant king, for themselves in their plaudits on and his bold censures of the follies the preacher !" of the court, were every where The fame of these sermons is descanted upon with rapture. He so great, and their real excellence so

was “

unequivocal, that we feel it right to talent of the French pulpit was dijustify our strictures by a specimen rected towards a new object; every of the lax and adulatory language little village church now resounded which, amidst all his censures, Mas- with the vices and follies of courts”; sillon allowed himself to use before the minor morals were all, and the most profligate of profligate Christ and Christianity were nocourts. “God," said he,“ has caused thing: for philosophy scorned to you to be born with a greater taste borrow from religion, or to regulate for what is good than other men. its choice of topics by the epochs of You have received from nature those the church. The new commonwell - directed inclinations which places of the pulpit were such as are hereditary ; your passions are benevolence (not the love of man, more gentle, your manners more grounded on love to God); the evils cultivated, your decorums are akin of luxury; friendship; modesty; the to virtues ; you have a politeness social virtues; egotism; antipathy; which softens down natural inclina- even the excellence of agriculture ; tion, a dignity which restrains the any thing in short but scriptural excesses of disposition, a humanity theology. Well might the venerable which renders you more susceptible Pere de la Valette say of such disthan others of the impressions of courses, “I know not what talent Divine grace.” « We cannot re- it may require to compose them, quire from you that trembling and but it shews a sad want of common tender piety, that attention to re- sense to preach them in a church.'' ligion, and that fervour which be- Would that all “moral preachers,” long to persons of retired habits, so called, and all lovers of “ moral free from the engagements of the preaching," whether French or world, and who have nothing to do English, would ever remember the but to employ themselves with the remark of Bossuet; “ You ask for things of God. But still there ought moral exhortations in sermons; yes, to be a rectitude of mind; a noble but let it not be forgotten that respect for your God, a solidity of Christian morals can be founded faith and religion, that exactness only on Christian mysteries." which good taste requires (de si bon We feel so much ashamed of our gout), in the essential duties of want of courtesy in having wandered Christianity,” &c. &c.—How mis- thus widely from Mr. Jerram, that placed are such topics in the lips of we will return at least one step toa minister of Christ! A morality wards him, though still on French founded on high blood and good ground, by confining our attention taste! We need say no more. Alas to the particular kind of sermons for Massillon! he would Christianize of which the one before us is an philosophy; but instead of this, he example,-funeral sermons, on the secularizes religion. Death, judg- composition of which our Gallic ment, eternity, salvation, “ the end neighbours erect the pinnacle of of man,” “ the small number of their pulpit fame. the chosen,” “ the danger of de- France possessed no funeral oralaying conversion,” how infinitely tions of celebrity till the age of more important such topics than Louis the Fourteenth; about which the trash which we have just quoted; time suddenly, and as if by magic, that and which, though not a fair speci- species of composition was carried men of the general course of these celebrated sermons, is still sufficient

• It has been stated, that the constant to shew how miserably scanty and recurrence of this topic, in almost every superficial was the basis on which pulpit in France, was one of the prepathey were founded !

ratory causes of the Revolution; by acThe success of these Petit-Câreme

customing the people at large to view the

privileged orders as one mass of pride, sermons was contagious: all the

profligacy, and folly.

« AnteriorContinuar »