Posted on July 7th, 2014
More from Barchester Towers on preaching:
No one can rid himself of the preaching clergyman. He is the bore of the age, the old man whom we Sindbads cannot shake off, the nightmare that disturbs our Sunday’s rest, the incubus that overloads our religion and makes God’s service distasteful. We are not forced into church! No: but we desire more than that. We desire not to be forced to stay away. We desire, nay, we are resolute, to enjoy the comfort of public worship, but we desire also that we may do so without an amount of tedium which ordinary human nature cannot endure with patience; that we may be able to leave the house of God without that anxious longing for escape which is the common consequence of common sermons.
There is a serious point to Trollope’s humor: The preacher can do enormous damage by “overloading” and being tedious. The Word of God is a good thing, but the preacher often attenuates its power.
I do believe in the unadulterated word which you hold there in your hand; but you must pardon me if, in some things, I doubt your interpretation.
Thus, the preacher would do well to pay more attention to the great sermons of the fathers, and less to his desire to be dramatic:
The Bible is good, the prayer-book is good, nay, you yourself would be acceptable, if you would read to me some portion of those time-honoured discourses which our great divines have elaborated in the full maturity of their powers. But you must excuse me, my insufficient young lecturer, if I yawn over your imperfect sentences, your repeated phrases, your false pathos, your drawlings and denouncings, your humming and hawing, your oh-ing and ah-ing, your black gloves and your white handkerchief. To me, it all means nothing; and hours are too precious to be so wasted–if one could only avoid it.