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4. A System of Logic, &c. By JOHN STUART MILL.
VI.-1. Die Gesellschaft Jesu, ihr Zweck, ihre Satzungen,
2. Die Jesuiten Des Ordens Geschichte, religiose und
3. Leben des Heiligen Ignatius Von Loyola.
4. Geschichte des Pontificats Clemens XIV. nach une-
5. Clemens XIV. und die Jesuiten nach dem Werke
6. Der Protestantismus als politisches Princip Von Pro-
7. Bibliothèque des Ecrivains de la Compagnie de Jésus
8. Histoire de la Compagnie de Jesus.
VII. 1. History of Oliver Cromwell and the English Common-
2. History of the English Revolution of 1640, from the
ART. I.-The Grounds of Faith. A Series of Four Lectures, by the REV. H. E. MANNING. London: Burns and Lambert, 1852.
STORY is told of one of the Esquire Bedels of Oxford, that, being on his death-bed, he sent for some one to administer spiritual consolation to him. The clergyman who came reminded him of the special privilege he had, by virtue of his office, enjoyed, of assisting at all the sermons preached by the greatest lights of the University. Yes, Sir," the man replied, "for six-and-thirty years I have listened to the discourses delivered from the pulpit of the University, and, thank God, I die a Christian.
This is discouraging, and more especially in a religious communion, which enjoins on its members that, as the necessary part of a Christian education, "they shall chiefly be called upon to hear sermons." But we are not come to this. Amongst ourselves people sometimes complain of sermons being too long or too dull-that they take no pleasure in assisting at them, and feel them to be a bore, but that the result of a long course of sermons should be such as we have referred to, we must regard as a development belonging exclusively to a false communion.
But why is it that the faithful are oftentimes found to complain of preaching as if it a were a thing rather to be endured than delighted in? Whence does the distaste
VOL. XXXVI.-NO. LXXI.
arise? In the present day especially, lectures on all subjects seem the rage. There are lectures on Music, on Chemistry, on Electricity, on the Polarization of Light, on Rotation of Crops, and the Elements of Guano. They are well attended, and the audience are interested, they are attentive at the lecture, and pleased afterwards. Why is it that sermons seem treated in a totally different way? Does this arise solely from the difference of the subject? And does it admit of a remedy? We intend to say a few words on these points, and, in short, to set for once a bad example by criticising and discussing Sermons and Preachers.
Why, then, we ask again, are people bored by a sermon, who are interested in a lecture on the rotation of crops? The primary reason is this, that in the one case the audience is composed of all sorts of people, those who are interested in the subject and those who are not; whereas in the other, it is composed mainly, if not entirely, of persons who have acquired a previous taste and knowledge on the subject. They have made it already a matter of study and reflection, and they bring with them minds prepared to enter into and sit in judgment on all that is said. We can always bear to hear men talk on a subject which is a fancy of our own. Whereas sermons are oftentimes addressed, if not to an unwilling audience, yet to persons who unfortunately feel but little interested in what they relate to. When, on the contrary, a discourse is addressed to a devout and religious congregation, there is but little difficulty in keeping up their attention. The subject is one in which they feel a very lively interest, and that is enough. Hence it has been said, and with truth, that a devotion to sermons is a mark of spirituality.
But though the main cause of this interest, felt in ordinary lectures, arises, as we have said, from the taste and character of the audience, yet it is not the only one. Sometimes a man will address an audience but little interested in his subject, and not only keep alive their attention, but fill them with astonishment and admiration. There are some men who can speak on anything, and make any subject interesting. They enliven it with anecdote and illustration. They have plenty of ideas and a fruitful imagination. They possess a fluency of language, which enables them to clothe any object with life and beauty. What is it which in this case rivets the attention of the audience?
Not the interest of the subject, but the genius and eloquence of the speaker.
Besides this, there is a third way in which the attention of an audience may be commanded when neither the interest felt in the subject is sufficient to ensure it, nor the talent of the speaker. Have we never been struck with the natural eloquence with which persons will speak on a subject in which they are deeply interested? There is a life and energy in their expressions which it is difficult not to be moved by. How painfully interesting are the few perhaps simple words which a criminal will use in pleading for mercy, or the poor child who follows us and entreats for some means of relief from hunger or from cold. Hear the tale of a man who has passed through strange perils and accidents, or met with hair-breadth escapes. Or, take again a person under the influence of excitement, an Irish woman in a passion, for instance, and observe how truly eloquent, as well as energetic, is the language in which they will declaim or deplore, inveigh or imprecate. The keenness of their feelings gives force to their words. And if those they address are ever so uninterested, yet the earnestness and energy of the speaker claims and obtains their attention.
It seems, then, that the pleasure and attention with which an audience will listen to a speaker or discourse depends on the interest they feel in the subject which is treated of. And that, if this interest does not already exist, there are two ways by which it may be created. One a spurious interest, excited by, or rather consisting in, the interest taken in the speaker, the liveliness of his ideas, and beauty of his language. The other a legitimate interest excited, not by the personal qualities of the speaker, but by his genuine earnestness and energy. Let us apply these principles to the subject of Sermons.
We have already pointed out as the first cause of the want of appreciation for Sermons, the character of the audience. Many do not care for sermons, or dislike them, because of their distaste in general for spiritual things. And this want of interest in the subject it is, which is the cause of their perverting the use of sermons, and looking upon them altogether from a wrong point of view. From their want of interest in the subject, their attention is rather turned to the manner than the matter of the discourse. They look upon the thing as if it were intended to be,