Edwin Paxton Hood.

Lamps, pitchers and trumpets; lectures on the vocation of the preacher. Illustrated by anecdotes, biographical, historical, and elucidatory, of every order of pulpit eloquence, from the great preacher online

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Online LibraryEdwin Paxton HoodLamps, pitchers and trumpets; lectures on the vocation of the preacher. Illustrated by anecdotes, biographical, historical, and elucidatory, of every order of pulpit eloquence, from the great preacher → online text (page 24 of 38)
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sinner's heart." A strange illustration he gave when he in-
troduced his sermon on the text, " We are not ignorant of
his devices : "

Many years since I met a drove of pigs in one of the streets of
a large town, and to my surprise they were not driven, but quietly
followed their leader. This singular fact excited my curiosity ;
and I pursued the swine, until they all quietly entered the butch-
ery : I then asked the man how he succeeded in getting the poor
stupid, stubborn pigs so willingly to follow him, when he told
me the secret : He had a basket of beans under his arm ; and
kept dropping them as he proceeded, and so secured his object.
Ah ! my dear hearers, the devil has got his basket of beans, and
he knows how to suit his temptations to every sinner. He drops
them by the way, — the poor sinner is thus led captive by the
devil at his own will ; and if the grace of God prevent not, he
will get him at last into his butchery, and there he will keep him
for ever. Oh, it is because " we are not ignorant of his de-
vices," that we are anxious this evening to guard you against
them.

The illustration is not very elegant, but it would tell on



"Bold < Tom Bradbury? " 283

many rude natures ; it was Scriptural— it was human, and
true.

" God," says an old Scotch divine, quoted by William
Jay, had but one only begotten son, and he made a preacher
of Him ; " the truth of which remark may perhaps be al-
lowed to atone for its homeliness. The preacher who
constantly remembers this will perhaps be saved from these
really sinful escapades and follies of speech, which call to
mind the remark that there is a great difference between
what St. Paul calls " the foolishness of preaching " and
foolish preaching.

Dean Eamsay tells a story of some old Scottish lady who,
while mourning over the moral state of one of her relatives,
exclaimed, "Our John swears awfu' ; and we try to correct
him ; but," she added, in a candid and apologetic tone,
"nae doubt it is a great set-aff to conversation." It seems
to be so even with pulpit drollery arid humor. It is very
much condemned, but no doubt it is a great set-off to the
pulpit. It has been said,* " In every denomination there
will occasionally spring up a ' Tom Bradbury,' preaching
with eccentricity enough, and drollery enough to afflict the
Church and to amuse the world. Billy Dawson was one of
this stamp." The writer can know neither the one preacher
nor the other to whom he refers. I glanced, as I read this,
to the eleven volumes of the Sermons of Bradbury ; The
Great Mystery of Godliness, and the Christus in Ccelo, and
felt that some wonderful injustice had been done to his
memory ; his wit and humor were like the wit and humor
of South, but seem to have been more rich and genial ;
they were not consecrated to flatter a corrupt court and
triumphant cause, and did not at all mar the ample knowl-

* " Punch in the Pulpit ; or, the Danger of Novelties and other
Improprieties in Religion, and especially of Jocularity in the House
of God." By Philip Cater, Author of "The Great Fiction of the
Times." Printed for the Author.



284 Wit, Humor ^ etc., in the Pulpit.

edge, and sound and lofty views of evangelical truth and
copious acquaintance with Scripture by which he delighted
his hearers : even his celebrated sermon, " The Ass and the
Serpent," contains little that the fastidious of our day could
condemn. He hated the Stuarts, and in his sermons he
maintained at once with indignation and humor, the right
of a people to resist tyrants.

But " Tom Bradbury " has some sins to answer for ;
even if he deserves to live in the honor and esteem of men
to whom civil and religious liberty are blessings. Queen
Anne was wont to call him "bold Bradbury." Few per-
sons, it is said, had a greater share in promoting the suc-
cession of the house of Hanover. It is also said, that upon
Queen Anne's death, he preached from the text, " Go, see
now this cursed woman, and bury her, for she is a king's
daughter : " it was he who was wont to express his dislike
of Dr. "Watts' psalms by saying " Let us have none of Dr.
Watts' vrhims." In fact, he was the South of the Noncon-
formists, but he had incomparably more decency than that
disagreeable time-server.

"William Dawson may, perhaps, seem to be nearer to the
above author's idea of Punch in the pulpit, yet he was a
master there, and only disgraceful ignorance can so insult
his memory. He seldom indulged in drollery for its own
sake ; he had immense power over vast audiences. We
have many powerful preachers living now, but in the power
of self-abandonment- we have no speaker like Dawson. He
spoke to the people in parables ; he sometimes spoke in
very bold, to our thought, even in coarse imagery and lan-
guage ; but the world needs preachers such as he was.
And the writer I have quoted finds Punch in the pulpit
during the singing of many hymns. Those exquisitely
beautiful hymns, " Alas ! and did my Saviour bleed," and
that most tender one, "The waves of trouble, how they
rise," awaken only his disgust. This is called "queer



The Folly of Learned Sermons. 28 c

hynmology." We live indeed in hypercritical times, when
such sweet and sacred notes of the Church can be profaned
by such a vulgar designation.

There is no doubt plenty of cause for a smart satire upon
many of the ways and words of the men of the pulpit. It
is a difficult thing to determine — nothing can determine but
the cultivated and sanctified sense of the preacher — the ex-
tent to which humor may be permitted in the pulpit. Some
will protest against its use altogether, but the boughs of
the old elmtree which once shed its autumn leaves in St.
Paul's Churchyard, and which has not been long removed,
while preserving to the eye of memory the cross over which
it waved, where stood the pulpit, once the most celebrated
in all England — the Pulpit of St. Paul's Cross — defends the
use of it. Of what that pulpit was we have no resemblance
now ; for, indeed, times have altered, and the pulpit work
is different ; that pulpit was The Times newspaper of its
day ; it was far more, it was the platform — it was the book
— the focal lens — the ventilator of public opinion ; and not
only true things, but humorous things, did that useful
sounding-board echo over the multitudes. There Colet, the
learned Dean — there Hooker — there the grave and dignified
Ridley ; and there, too, was the most popular preacher of
them all — the anecdotal, the witty, the fable-loving and hu-
morous Latimer. If we did not regret that there is found
so little freedom in the pulpit, we should rejoice that with
the multitudes of preachers there is so little infringement
of the bounds of good taste. At the same time it is to be
remembered that there is a pedantic Punch in the pulpit,
as well as a frolicsome one, and it is difficult to say which
of the two is the more irreverent. Fine sermons, learned
sermons, metaphysical sermons, are shocking things. A
very old writer has said :

Some take a text sublime and fraught with sense,
But quickly fall into impertinence.



286 • Wit, Humor, etc., in the Pu

On trifles eloquent with great delight
They flourish out on some strange mystic rite ;
But to subdue the passions, or direct,
And all life's moral duties they neglect.
Most preachers err, except the wiser few,
* Thinking established doctrines, therefore, true.

Others, too fond of novelty and schemes,
Amuse the world with airy, idle dreams.
Thus too much faith or too presuming wit
Are rocks where bigots or freethinkers split.
'Tis not enough that what you say is true,
To make us feel it you must feel it too,
Show yourself warm, and that will warmth impart
To every hearer's sympathising heart.

The style of some preachers is quite as ludicrous as that
ridiculed by Pluche in his History of the Heavens : —

A carpenter who understood his trade, and was in tolerable
circumstances, had given his son a good education, that is, had
made him pass through a course of liberal studies and phil-
osophy. We know no other method. The father dying just as
the son had gone through his public disputations, and leaving
some undertakings unfinished, the young man took a liking to
work, and followed his father's profession. But he bethought
himself of recalling his art to certain principles, and subjecting
it to a methodical order. He treated the whole in his head as
he had seen his masters treat the art of reasoning. At length
he got together a number of journeymen of the trade, and
promised to lead them by a new way to the quintessence of
carpentry.

Our new doctor, after a long preamble on mechanicks, which
he promised to treat on by genus and species, came to the first
question, and very seriously examined whether there was a
principle of force in man. He long discussed the reasons pro
and con, and at last enabled his disciples, knowingly, and with-
out any apprehension of mistake, to affirm that man was capable
of a certain degree of strength, and able to communicate motion,
for instance, to an axe, or to a stone, if not too great. He was



Humorous Juxtaposition of Ideas. 287

contented with this modest assertion, being persuaded, that,
■with this small strength multiplied, he might, towards the end
of his treatise, come to transporting the largest pieces of rough
marble, and to heaving of mountains. He next proceeded to
examine the place where this force resided ; and after many
disputations on the brains, the glandula pinealis, the spirits,
and the muscles, he, out of economy, and for brevity's sake,
determined, that the arm was the chief agent, and the instru-
ment of human strength.

In a third paragraph (for you would have wondered how well
he divided and put his matter in order) the strength residing
in the arm gave him occasion to examine all the constituent
pieces of the arm, and to make an exact anatomy of it. He
made long dissertations on the nerves, muscles, fibres, and de- •
scended to the minutest filaments. He .multiplied the lengths
of the muscles by their breadths, and the product of these by
the sum of the fibres. From one calculation to another he came
to determine the strength of each degree of tension, and, by
means of these determinations, made himself able to fix the
strength of percussion. Thus he weighed a cuff, and joining
the strength of the fist to the sum of the blow of a hammer, he
showed you the exact weight with which this percussion was in
equal proportion. Finally, to sum up his matters, and for the
conveniency of the young carpenters, he reduced this whole into
algebraic expressions.

The author's conclusion on the whole work is, " that not only
in point of religion, but also in natural philosophy, we ought to
be contented with the certainty of experience, and the sirnplic-'
ity of Revelation." *

In thoughtlessness, in sheer vacant thoughtlessness,
some of the effects, equal to the most ridiculous drollery,
have their origin; like the escapade of speech heard from
the lips of a very holy minister by a friend of our o\ra, in
describing the happiness of the heavenly state : — " Oh, my
Mends, there Satan shall harass you no longer; there the
enemy of souls can distress you no more, for there you

"• Pluclu'', Hid. f ike Heavens, vol. ii. b. 4.



288 Wit, Humor, etc., in the Pulpit.

shall be like Him — there you shall see him as He is." It
is to be hoped all his auditors were sufficiently at home in
Scripture, to understand the extraordinary juxtaposition
of ideas.*

But I do not know that any of these strange develop-
ments disgust more, than what results in tame feebleness
from the absence of earnestness. We have the "laced
coat of mere orthodox twaddle," we have men who stand
like cast-iron pumps, and exercise their preaching as a
kind of parish-pump faculty ; we have somnolence sleep-
ing itself to death ; and we have the platitudes uttered,
when men having no voice in their own conscience, fail of
course to reach the consciences of others.

* One Saturday afternoon Robert Robinson received a visit from
the Rev. Clement Carnifex, who, at that time, lived at " Enon, near
to Salim, because there was much water there." The following
dialogue between these two men will afford a still more striking
illustration of these impertinent allusions to the devil : —

Clement Carnifex. — " I am come from a great distance to hear you
preach to-morrow."

Robert Robinson. — " Then, brother, you shall preach for me."

C. C. — " O no, no ; I cannot preach in Mr. Robinson's pulpit."

R. R. — " Why not ; my pulpit is a wooden one ; is not yours ? "

C. C— "Yes, sir; but I cannot preach to Mr. Robinson's
people."

R. R. — " Why not ? my people are like other people — some good,
some bad — are not yours ? "

C. C.—" Yes, sir."

R. R. — " Well, then, I daresay the sermons last Sunday at home
would be very suitable. What were they ? "

C. C. — " Why, in the morning I preached from Esther vii. 9 —
' Hang him thereon.' "

R. R. — " Very well, brother. You had a good opportunity of
showing that the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.
Did you take it up in that light, brother ? "

C. C — " No, sir ; I considered Haman as the devil, who is always
endeavoring to injure the Lord's people, and would be glad to
destroy them."



Strange Freaks of Speech in the Pul/pit. 289

You have heard many sermons preached upon the pub-
lican and pharisee ; but did you ever hear that preached
in St. Giles-in-the-Fields. " It was sad," said the able and
eloquent preacher, " that any of our fellow creatures should
so fall, as to stand in need of such a degrading confession
as the publican's ; but he besought his hearers to be upon
their guard, lest by drawing too favorably a contrast be-
tween such outcasts and themselves, they incurred the
censure pronounced on that otherwise most amiable char-
acter, the pharisee." And James Haldane mentions, in
one of his missionary tours in Scotland, that he heard a
minister solemnly warn his people, and he was a minister
of the Scotch Establishment, against putting any trust,

R. R. — " Very good, brother ; nothing can be more suitable.
Here is old Nanny, the pew-opener at our place ; she can never get
to meeting in time, for she says that the devil always finds her
something or other to do. Then there is old Farmer Jones, who
lives about three miles off. He says that before he has got half
way to meeting, the devil tells him that somebody is breaking into
his barns, and he is obliged to return. Now, brother, if you could
prove that you have hanged the devil, nothing in the world would
be more suitable. That will do for the morning. Now, what is
the afternoon subject, brother ?"

C. G. — " Why, sir, in the afternoon I preached from 2 Kings
xviii. 36 — ' Answer him not.' "

R. R — " Very well, brother. You have an opportunity of show-
ing not only that the king's business requires haste, but that it is
sometimes good policy not to reveal the secrets of State affairs.
Did you handle it that way, brother ? "

C. C. — " No, sir. I endeavored to show that the devil would be
always harassing and distressing the dear people of God ; but tho
best way was to pay no regard to his temptation. ' Answer him
not a word.' "

R. R. — " Ha ! ha ! brother ; that will never do. Now, in the
morning, you see, according to your sermon, you hanged the devil ;
that was very fortunate ; but in the afternoon you brought him to
life again. At any rate it must be wrong for these two subjects to
follow each other.

13



290 Wit, Humor, etc., in the JPu

while they continued sinners, in the blood of Christ.
" Kepent," said he, " become righteous, atone for your
sins by probity, and virtue, and then if you please, you
may look to that blood, but not before." Widely different
all this to the "warning every man, and teaching every
man, that we may present every man perfect in Christ
Jesus."

We need not read the celebrated " Sermons to Asses."*
We need not go to hear the Friar Gerund, f We need not
listen to the preacher who took for his text " O," and said
a thousand fine things ; or that learned and judiciously
educated monk, who, -preaching upon the servant of the
High Priest warming himself, began, " My brethren, see
how the evangelist relates, not merely as an historian
would — 'he warmed himself,' but as a philosopher — 'be-
cause he was cold.' " The speech outruns the ideas of
some preachers, as in the instance cited by the Wyckhamist
of a missionary — describing the horrors of the Cafire war,
and its desolating effect on his own estate, wishing to wind
up with a good sonorous cadence, who ended thus, in words
which certainly were remarkable as the experience of a
living man, " And when I got home to my house I found
my children fatherless and my wife a widow." We need
not go for the purpose of marking the humors of the pul-
pit to that repertory, above all other repertoires of pulpit
anecdote, Kobert Robinson's edition of " Claude," unless
to note how admirable are his remarks upon vulgarity in
the pulpit ; and they afford a reason for many of Eobin-
son's own frequent lapses in that way.

Nothing is more necessary than self-denial. Beside all that

* " Sermons to Asses, to Doctors of Divinity, to Lords Spiritual,
and to Ministers of State." By the Rev. James Murray, 1819.

f " The History of the Famous Preacher, Friar Gerund de Cam-
panzas, otherwise Gerund Zotes." Translated from the Spanish.
In 2 vols., 1772.



Humorous Literature in the Pulpit 291

self-denial, which belongs to ministers in common with their
fellow-Christians, there are exercises of it peculiar to divines,
and essential to the discharge of the pastoral office. Visiting
and conversing with the poor, and allowing them to come for
spiritual advice, are articles of this kind. Can it be imagined,
that a man of learning is gratified by illiterate conversation ?
That a polite, well-bred man relishes the vulgar, awkward rude-
ness of clowns ? That men, who know the worth of time, and
who love study as they love life, can be pleased with interrup-
tion and nonsense, and long-winded tales of complaint, which
begin, perhaps, in an ale-house fray, and end in a case of con-
science ? Can they, whose company is courted by accomplished
men, who would pour into their bosoms of wise and pious con-
versation good measure, pressed down, and shaken together,
and running over — can these, I ask, of choice spend half a day
in searching for one grain of wheat in a bushel of chaff? Yet
he who cannot submit to these things, however qualified for a
nobleman's domestic chaplain, or for a dignitary in a rich
church, can never make the less splendid but more useful minis-
ter of a parish, or pastor of a flock. A poet may give himself
airs, toss his haughty head, take snuff, and chant — Odi prof a-
num Vulgns ; but the minister of the meek and merciful Jesus
must not do so. He must try to take the ton of his poor people,
if he would do them real spiritual good. It will be his glory
sometimes to be rude in speech, to conceal his abilities, to adapt
himself to their weaknesses, to prefer Bunyan before Beza,
Dodd's sayings and Wright's poems before the casuistry of
Hoadley, and the poetry of Milton or Young,

Thus, also, some preachers are fond of discoursing on
the Book of Leviticus, a book needing a very fine spiritual
hand and insight, and capable of yielding glorious teach-
ing ; yet the effect is usually bad because there is no eye
for the Divine meaning. Thus a young clergyman hearing
a minister preaching on the types, and expounding Leviti-
cus iii. 3 — "And lie shall offer the fat that covereth the
inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, and the
two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the



292 Wit, Humor, etc., in the Pul/pib.

flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it he
shall take away " — it is said, turned sick at the suggestive
pictures. It is a singular chapter in the history of the
human mind, the irreverence of reverent men. The shelves
of our own library give to us John Stoughton's (not our
excellent friend of Kensington, but the old 1640-roan)
" Baruch's Sore Gently Opened, and the Salve Skilfully
Applied." "We have the " Church's Bowel Complaint,"
"The Snuffers of Divine Love." Then are there not the
" Spiritual Mustard Pot to Make the Soul Sneeze with
Devotion," " A Pack of Cards to Win Christ," &c, &c. ?
Looking back upon these things, we almost feel that our
age has advanced in reverence as well as in culture.

Yet we wish we had more freedom in the pulpit. There
would be more useful results if ministers 'felt more and
spoke more openly and heartily ; if every man had more
his own style. If, in fact, the pulpit could be less than it
is, it would be more than it is ; it over-rides far too intoler-
antly other ministerial duties. We ourselves speak much
of it, and yet we long to hear less of it. And then it will
do its work better, when its words shall be a flow of kindly,
friendly, solemn, cheerful, thoughtful talk : a conversation
with people, rather than the sweep of a stately flight above
them, talking to them — which is in sympathy — rather than
talking at them. Certainly, in the work of the pulpit, the
true preacher makes his own work, and uses, by an instinct
deeper than his own knowledge, the kind of method most
suited to his nature. Toplady says, " the painter chooses
the materials on which he paints — on wood, on glass, on
metals, on ivory, on canvas. Some natural endowments
are not high, there the painting is on wood ; others on
marble — quick sensibility and poignant feeling ; some on
glass, very beautiful, but especially dangerous, since by
the first stone of penetration they are fractured and
broken, and fall from their first love. The earliest an-



The Header and the Hearer. 293

cionts painted only in water, like hypocrites ; but God
paints in oil, accompanying Himself the word by unction
and by power."

And when attempts are made either to sneer down the
pulpit or to hold it up to ridicule, the response ought to
be — that it is really by far the most important means for
the education of thought and emotion in the hands of men.
It cannot be cared for too much, or guarded too sedulously.
It needs indeed to be taken away from the tongue of big-
otry and formalism — it needs to be made less a mere
amusement and luxury — more of tenderness, experience,
teaching — more of humanity in it ; and then it will be
hailed as one of the most delightful means of cheering the
toil of the working-man with the love of Jesus, the story
of the Cross, and the good news from the far country,
inwrought with lessons and pictures of life, homely, pow-
erful, and practical, becoming at once light to the eye and
a power to the conscience.

Southey entertains us with a story of a certain Quaker
who took a manuscript to Franklin to print and publish.
Franklin looked over it, and said to the author that it was
somewhat deficient in arrangement. " It's no matter," said \j :
the author, "print any part thou pleasest first." I almost
fear lest I should seem, by the fragmentary words of this
lecture, to lay myself open to a similar laugh. The fault
is, perhaps, that all persons live too exclusively on the life
of the book or of the speaker. The man who lives on the
orator alone may have his mental and moral life destroyed
by a plethora or spasm, if I may not rather call it a spon-
taneous combustion. The man, on the contrary, who lives
the life of the mere bookman may die of indigestion.
There is a danger of being mere bookmen, or else mere
hangers-on at public meetings and frothy lecturings. We
educate our thoughts by the book, we enlarge our informa-
tion by the book, we extend the territory of our imagina-



204 Wit, Humor, etc., in the JPu

tion by the book ; but we educate our affections by speech,
we intensify our impulses by speech, we acquire the grace
of manner and the felicity of diction by speech, not merely
by speaking, but by hearing. The book is for the head ;
from the book we must expect to obtain ideas ; from the
book we must gain mental forms ; the book will surround
the spirit with all those graceful fictions, those ineffable
charms of proverb and parable, which give to the soul the
evergreen and the flower, as well as the hardy fruit. Speech
will give fire to us, it will give light to us, such light as
shines through a vault when the heavens are alive with
flame. The bookman becomes a mere cold critic, watchful



Online LibraryEdwin Paxton HoodLamps, pitchers and trumpets; lectures on the vocation of the preacher. Illustrated by anecdotes, biographical, historical, and elucidatory, of every order of pulpit eloquence, from the great preacher → online text (page 24 of 38)