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OUR CHRISTIAN CLASSICS.
SOUTH, TILLOTSON, AND MODERN
ONE day, Boswell asked Dr Johnson, "What were the best English sermons for style?-Atterbury?" JOHNSON: "Yes,
sir; one of the best. BOSWELL: "Tillotson ?" JOHNSON: "Why, not now. I should not advise a preacher at this day to imitate Tillotson's style; though I don't know: I should be cautious of objecting to what has been applauded by so many suffrages. South is one of the best, if you except his peculiarities, and sometimes coarseness of language. Seed has a very fine style; but he is not very theological. Jortin's sermons are very elegant. Sherlock's style, too, is very elegant, though he has not made it his principal study. And you may add Smalridge. All the latter preachers have a good style. Indeed, nobody now talks much of style; everybody composes pretty well. There are no such inharmonious periods as there were a hundred years ago."
In the great critic's enumeration, it will be observed that no mention is made of any of the authors who have heretofore passed under our review. The question referred to "style;" * Croker's Boswell, vol. vii. p. 78.
and Johnson knew that a sermon constructed as Hall, Baxter, and Taylor constructed theirs, would be a mystery and an amazement to a modern audience. True, anterior to their time, there were sermons of an excellent "style." In the earnest days of reformation, preachers were free, direct, and natural; and it would not be easy to find harangues where the speaker and his audience are in closer contact than the sermons of Latimer and the solitary surviving specimen of Bernard Gilpin-a style which survived as late as the period when Henry Smith inundated with an unwonted audience the Church of St Clement Dane's, and Walter Travers made the vaults of the Temple ring again with his Genevan thunder-peals. But under Queen Elizabeth, who, as an imperium in imperio, was jealous of the pulpit, the ordinance of preaching had almost gone into abeyance; and when, under her sapient successor, it experienced a revival, it studied the tastes and copied the intellectual features of its foster-father. A sermon was no longer a straightforward address of man to man, but a curious scholastic exercise, often prepared with infinite pains, and, when recited from the clerical rostrum, better fitted to display the ingenuity of the speaker than to improve or impress his audience. A text was selected, and, instead of an effort to seize its leading idea, and present it vivid and entire, it was split open with a logical cleaver, and then cut up into curious little morsels, or comminuted still farther into mere particles and atoms, which, spiced with quips, and puns, and verbal jingles, and garnished with Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, were deemed
Of course, the court was followed by the country. Pedantry in the pulpit was a mark of loyalty, and, what was still more important, it was the height of fashion. Not only did the remotest aspirant towards a mitre labour above all things to