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OLD TESTAMENT HISTORIES;
Texts in the Sunday Lessons.
JOHN HAMPDEN GURNEY, M.A.
RECTOR OF ST. MARY'S, MARYLEBONE,
I am quite aware that the Sermons contained in this Volume have nothing in them that is original or profound; and I certainly cannot make my friends responsible for the publication by alleging their urgent request as an excuse for my venture. I know, too, that there is an ample choice of printed Sermons already, and that, contrary to the received maxim of Political Economy, the supply, in this case, considerably exceeds the demand. But I believe, notwithstanding, that there is still a want of Sermons not original or profound or eloquent, yet not absolutely dull and trite, plain in style and varied in subject, with something of a specific character about them, so that they shall not sound like the echo of a hundred more,—above all, practical and uncontroversial, such as good men, of varying opinions on many points of Theology and Ecclesiastical usage, may read with satisfaction in their homes, and to their families.
In places where distance from Church makes attendance at a second Service difficult or impos
sible, there is a very general feeling, now-a-days, that a domestic Service, in addition to the public one, is a right thing; and persons who adopt this very wholesome practice have told me that they find a great difficulty in keeping up a supply of what is suitable for such occasions. In spite of the general abundance, the Volumes are soon exhausted, they say, which prove interesting to intelligent young people, and, at the same time, are simple enough for servants of the better class. I have some hope that to audiences of this description I may minister without being personally known to them; and I believe that the selection of subjects from the Sunday Lessons will be thought an advantage by many.
I should like, if I dared, to say more than a few words on the general subject of Preaching ; but it is delicate ground for one to venture upon who writes Sermons, and prints them; so a little must suffice on a copious and inviting subject. One day last May, Archdeacon Sinclair startled the assembled Clergy at his Visitation by delivering to them a Charge on this important branch of their duties, -like all his Charges, manly, sensible, persuasive, containing some needful cautions and some very judicious suggestions, by which many Congregations in London and Middlesex, it is to be hoped, will be gainers in future years. A hundred or two Clergymen were there, between the ages of seventy and twenty-five, -whose lot had been cast, at one time or another, probably, in all the Dioceses of England, who had heard among them, we may fairly reckon, many hundreds of Bishops' or Archdeacons’ Charges; yet no one person to whom I spoke on the subject had ever listened to a Charge on Preaching before. It may sometimes have formed one topic out of many; advice as to the subject-matter of Sermons we have often heard, the speaker telling us what we ought to preach, and what we ought not to preach, according as he favoured one School of Theology or another ; but a whole discourse as to the best mode of preparing Sermons, the style in which they should be composed, and the faults specially to be avoided by young writers, was felt to be a novelty by those who had large experience of Clerical gatherings.
Now this fact seems to me a tolerably decisive proof that, while intelligent Laymen, from one end of England to the other, in our great towns especially, are complaining that the Pulpit wants life and variety and power, our Church Rulers do not apprehend the evil in all its magnitude. There are many laments over other things which are supposed to impede the Church's usefulness. Lack of Church-room, Progress of Dissent, insufficient Endowments, internal strifes, decay of the old traditional feeling which led past generations to love the places where their ancestors had knelt, or the prevalence of a wild, reckless spirit which draws vast numbers alike to insubordination and scepticism, -all these we have heard dwelt upon in turn; but seldom or never do we hear what implies