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In refuting the view that the Anglican clergy was unsanctified because the preacher did not claim to speak by the gift of the Spirit, he remarked on the new style of preaching and on the extravagances with which extempore—i. Some pulpits have been thought unsanctified, because the preacher was not gifted, because he has not expressed himself in that light, fluent, running, passionate, zealous style, which should make him for that time appear religiously distracted, or beside himself.

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Or because his prayer, or Sermon hath been premeditated, and has not flown from him in such an ex-tempore loose career of devout emptiness and nothings, as serve only to entertain the people, as bubbles do children, with a thin, unsolid, brittle, painted blast of wind and air Conversely, one may say that the stress on reason and good sense, premeditation and control, which characterizes neo-classicism, was due, partly at least, to the reaction against the excesses of enthusiasm in religion in the preceding age It is surely no accident that the classical temper is best defined in a sermon on extempore prayers by Robert South like Mayne, a Christ-Church man ; nor that the patrician scorn of this Restoration preacher should be so often aimed at the unthinking rabble that can be entertained by mere bubbles.

The clarity and sobriety of Restoration prose, the premium set on perspicuity, the distrust of metaphorical language, the preference for language such as men do use, may well have other sources than this reaction against the turgid speeches which had caused such revolutions in Church and State.

But the revulsion from this should also be taken into account. Similarly, the emphasis on order and propriety in language and literature no less than in religion and politics, appears as the natural reaction against the anarchy of the closing years of the Interregnum. One need only turn to the poems celebrating the return of Charles II to realize that the promise of peace and order was welcomed with relief.

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And these are the very qualities which the reformers of pulpit oratory advocated again and again: a clear method, a perspicuous and natural style, a sober exposition of doctrine and use, and above all avoidance of needless controversies. Together with other factors, it certainly encouraged a taste for clear thinking and precise statement, for easy and natural expression, for a mode of exposition that is at once persuasive and undogmatic, and for a style that is both polished and free from decoration. It may also have contributed to bring home to the poets that, as T. Eliot himself a great admirer of Dryden said, verse should have the virtues of good prose.

The fact that for mediocre writers poetry was hardly more than rhymed prose—and not good prose at that—casts no reflection on the practice of men like Dryden, whose prose and verse alike show to what varied uses he could put the medium which the reformers had contributed to shape. And the efforts of the reformers of pulpit oratory all bore in the same direction. It is surely no accident that the most influential of these, both through his treatise on preaching and through his own practice and life, should have called his manual for aspiring preachers Ecclesiastes.

And this very insistence was made the more necessary by the spread of Antinomianism as well as of infidelity and licentiousness. Given the circumstances, the reform of pulpit oratory was bound to be towards simplicity and perspicuity, and to emphasize the need for preachers to be trained in human as well as in divine knowledge. This was not unnatural considering the excesses of the Saints and of some Calvinists, even though the Anglicans may have been a little too prone to fasten the blame on the other party.

In the earlier part of the century, however, the attacks had usually come from the other side, from Puritans concerned that all the sheep be fed. Such was clearly one of the main purposes of the Directory issued by the Assembly of Divines in , which among the reasons for abolishing the Book of Common Prayer, stated that. Prelates and their Faction have laboured to raise the Estimation of it to such an Height In both, looking diligently to the scope of the Text, and pointing at the chief heads and grounds of Doctrine, which he is to raise from it The doctrine must be plain, and the arguments solid; all cavils are to be avoided.

He is neither to prosecute all the doctrines in the text nor to infer all the uses. And it is characteristic that the sermon manual most influential in the next age was clearly based on the Directory. Shewing the most proper rules and directions, for method, invention, books, expression, whereby a minister may be furnished with such abilities as may make him a Workman that needs not to be ashamed, but may save himself, and those that heare him Wilkins, who was later to become Bishop of Chester, could be all things to all men, and was eminently fit to act as a mediator; he could rise above party, and he encouraged research and peaceful exchange of ideas at a time when controversies were raging In his sermon manual, as in his later dealings with men of opposite parties, he fostered that reasonable and equable temper that was his main quality.

This is an important simplification of the method propounded by Keckermann as well as of the directions of the Assembly of Divines. This need not, but often may, have entailed a more complex structure than that envisaged by Wilkins. And the advice he gave on how to handle each part contributed to the same end.

He advised preachers to avoid ingenious interpretations:. Beware of that vain affectation of finding something new and strange in every text, though never so plain. It will not so much shew our parts which such men aim at as our pride, and wantonness of wit. These new projectors in Divinity are the fittest matter out of which to shape, first a Sceptick, after that a Heretick, and then an Atheist Wilkins, we remember, was to be both the friend of the new projectors in natural philosophy and a champion of faith, who opposed the spread of infidelity by insisting on the agreeableness of natural and revealed religion This is the usual method recommended in all artes concionandi , but the grave Assembly divines may well have frowned on reading that the confirmation should be from testimony both human and divine, and when Wilkins went on to state that.

True, he was careful to warn his readers that. Though he considers two kinds of applications, doctrinal and practical, he warns preachers that in the doctrinal part.

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The phrase, Wilkins said, should be plain, full, wholesome, and affectionate; and in developing the first two points he described a mean between the extremes of brevity and orotundity, and categorically repudiated all ornaments of speech, invoking the authority of St. Paul, though others had shown, and were to show, that the Apostle had only condemned vain rhetoric.

Wilkins, then, favoured bare rather than plain prose, and the reason for this may be found in what he says on the next point, wholesomeness:. False opinions doe many times insinuate themselves by the use of suspicious phrases. Though his own reasonable temper as well as his interest in scientific experiments may have made him naturally averse from all metaphorical language, it is clear that his main concern is with the corruption of doctrine that may result from the imposture of words.

But his later work on a universal character, i. But given the interest many people then took in reducing language to method, such schemes were likely to appeal to men like Sir William Petty, Evelyn, and other members of the Royal Society, who, like Hobbes, were much concerned with the inconstant signification of words. Such may well have been the opinion of the Merry Monarch, who liked sermons to be short and plain, but pithy, and who relished the sallies of Robert South.

More was needed than to retrench empty tautologies and rhetorical flourishes or to avoid scholastical harshness; but at the time when Wilkins was writing his manual, closeness to the matter in hand must have appeared as devoutly to be wished And later reformers of pulpit oratory were to emphasize the point again and again. Though the minister is to avoid all affectation of learning in his sermons, he must command considerable knowledge to expound Scripture rightly. Wilkins takes it for granted that a minister has the Old and the New Testament both in the originals and in the most authentic translations, and he only lists reference books which will help him to interpret Scripture.

These alone cover more than forty pages of his manual, ranging from dictionaries to ascertain the true meaning of Hebrew or Greek words, to commentaries on Scripture, to controversies about points of doctrine and of discipline, to studies on Jewish and pagan philosophy, on the writings of the Fathers, on ecclesiastical history, etc. Clearly a minister who followed the pattern laid down by Wilkins would not only be clear and perspicuous, but his teaching would be grounded on solid learning; what is even more important, he would have inquired impartially into the points of doctrine and discipline before he set up as a preacher.

Perhaps this openness of mind is more in evidence among the Latitudinarians than among the High-Churchmen, but these too were to take their stand on reason and freedom of inquiry. This sermon, The Scribe Instructed , was not published until the early eighteenth century, but since South was a renowned preacher, Orator of Oxford University from and a Canon of Christ Church from , his influence is not to be discounted , especially if we remember that his own college was a seminary of young divines.

On this occasion he took for his text Matt. This last point, South knew, was apt to offend many of his hearers, and he proceeds to vindicate this most decried faculty not only as a gift of God which may be sanctified in the work of the ministry The distinction is an important one, especially as he himself was so often to ridicule the flights of fancy and the unnatural jargon of the Puritans; but he had stated at the outset that preparation for the ministry is by instruction, not by infusion.

Indeed, the whole drift of the discourse is a defence of the learning necessary to ministers, and a refutation of the arguments which had been advanced in the previous years for the disendowment of Universities. South obviously took occasion of the Commissioners meeting to enter this plea in favour of a learned ministry, of which the defence of rhetoric is only a part.

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Both propriety and grace are necessary. His ideal—and he does say that he is giving a rule for the perfection to which preachers ought to aspire—may be regarded as that of the classical orators.

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The central notion is decorum, which governs the use of ornament. He argues against the upholders of the bare style that Scripture does not engage men to be dull, flat and slovenly in their sermons, for this is to mistake the majesty of the matter. The words of the text he is expounding, South argues, mean nothing else but a plenty, or fluent dexterity of the most suitable words, and pregnant arguments, to set off and enforce Gospel truths. He condemns both the whimsies of an unruly fancy and the dry arguments of mere dialecticians, as well as all slovenly language.


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Discipline and control in the use of ornament is what South advocates, and the elegancies will set off the truths propounded. The passage is an epitome of all the abuses in pulpit oratory in the seventeenth century, ranged under the two main heads of indecent i. In this sermon, on Luke XXI. Christ promised to give his Apostles a mouth and wisdom, since.

In developing these points South defined his own conception of plainness.

Whereas in the earlier sermon he had vindicated the use of rhetoric, here the stress is on perspicuity. For all his reference to language as the dress of thought, South did not envisage that the two could exist independently of each other any more than did Pope or Johnson, for, as he said,. As his own practice shows, he was as much averse to the rude insipid way as to all needless decoration and enlargements. If many of his sermons have the brilliancy of a cut diamond, it is because he set such store on clear thinking and vigorous expression. His own trenchant style closely adheres to his lucid thought and is made more lively by his apt images and his manly wit.

As he said in another sermon in his characteristic witty way, when once more referring to gifted preachers of the Geneva model,. Extempore prayers he brands as rude, careless, incoherent, and confused; they let the fancy run on impertinent subjects and in impertinent words, there-by encouraging loose talk and distracting the hearers from true devotion: such negligence in addressing God not only argues a profane lack of respect for Him but relaxes the tension and weakens the feelings of the hearers. As for a Set form, in which the words are ready prepared to our hands, the Soul has nothing to do, but to attend to the work of raising the Affections and Devotions, to go along with those words: So that all the Powers of the Soul are took up in applying the Heart to this great Duty; and it is the Exercise of the Heart as has been already shown that is truly and properly a praying by the Spirit Devotion so managed, being like Water in a Well, where you have Fullness in a little Compass; which surely is much nobler, than the same carried out into many petit, creeping Rivulets, with length and shallowness together.


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  5. Let him who prays, bestow all that Strength, Fervour and Attention, upon Shortness and Significance, that would otherwise run out, and lose itself in length and luxuriance of Speech to no purpose But where would then be the Glory and Lustre of the Universe?