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The Decay of Modern Preaching: An Essay

J. P. Mahaffy

ISBN 10: 1511435550 / ISBN 13: 9781511435550
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015
Condition: Good Soft cover
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Title: The Decay of Modern Preaching: An Essay

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Publication Date: 2015

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition: Good

About this title

Reseņa del editor:

... Mr. Mahaffy's interesting essay on the Decay of Modern Preaching: a work which we strongly advise all clergy to read, although we do not mean to say that we agree with all the remarks in it, and we are inclined to think that the title is a misnomer. It is true that a great deal is talked about the decay of preaching and the decline of the power of the pulpit, but it may fairly be questioned whether the average of good preachers was ever higher than at present. Mr. Mahaffy speaks rather as if the present day had a monopoly of bad preaching, and refers to the age of Queen Anne as a time when the Christian pulpit was ‘raised to a position of power and authority’ (p. 83). But this is just the very time when Swift uttered the piteous complaint that churches were ‘public dormitories;’ and the various notices of preaching scattered about in the pages of the Spectator do not look as if the preaching of that day was uniformly excellent. It must be remembered that we judge of a past age mainly by the few great preachers whose names and works have lived on and been handed down to us, and not by the many who are forgotten, and who were probably quite as dull as the average preachers among us. Indeed, at many periods in the history of the Church they were probably far duller; and we believe that, taken all round, the preaching of the present day would compare favourably with that of almost any age. In this matter we have certainly learnt much in the last few years. Still there is great room for improvement, and we cannot help feeling that we have a great deal more yet to learn.

To begin with, the clergy have learnt the lesson of making their sermons short; and it is worth considering whether this has not been learnt only too well, and whether the laity have not been taught to claim a short sermon as a right, and to feel injured if it happens to be a little longer than usual. People certainly have become terribly impatient of long sermons, and seem to consider that anything is long which exceeds a modest half hour: an estimate that would have caused considerable astonishment to our forefathers. As Mr. Mahaffy says:—

‘A preacher of any but the highest powers who ventures to detain his hearers beyond half an hour is regarded as a sort of social criminal, and the prospect of an hour's sermon would keep most people away. How far are we removed from the days when Bishop Burnet, who preached with an hour-glass running beside him, was requested by the whole congregation when it ran out to reverse it and continue his discourse for a second hour.’

The Church Quarterly Review [1882]

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