Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Volume 4, The Age of the Reformation

Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Volume 4, The Age of the Reformation. William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2002.

Wycliffe died in 1384, a century before Luther was born, so Protestantism was in the English soil long before Luther began to preach against indulgences. (330)

By all odds, the Reformation should never have been able to strike root in England, because there were only a very few preachers of ability. Two of these, Hugh Latimer and John Hooper, we treated in detail. Much more important for the development of English Protestantism was the production of an English Bible and a system for its regular public reading in the service of daily morning and evening prayer. (330)

During the forty-year reign of Elizabeth I, English Protestantism grew and matured. And yet the age of Elizabeth was not an age of great preaching. There was no master of the Elizabethan pulpit. One assumes the saintly George Herbert was a conscientious preacher, but his sermons have not come down to us. The sermons of John Jewel were effective enough, but by no means outstanding. Anglicanism would produce some marvelous preachers, but not during the reign of Elizabeth I. … William Perkins and the Puritans of Cambridge began to develop a distinctly English school of preaching, but its greatest preachers did not begin to appear until the end of Elizabeth’s reign. (Horton Davies dates the golden age of English preaching as 1588-1645, while William Fraser Mitchell would situate it between Andrewes and Tilltoson.) (331)

With the… accession to the English throne of James… the Church of England began to divide into opposing camps. There was Puritanism, which sought to deepen classical Protestantism with its emphasis on piety, and Anglicanism, which sought to develop a national religion by making loyalty to the monarchy one of the foundations of faith. (331)

The great majority, as in many other things like this, wavered between the two positions, sometimes going with the Puritans, sometimes with the Anglicans. (331)

To understand Anglicanism, one must see in it in the context of baroque culture. Far form merely an English phenomenon, Anglicanism was, like Gallicanism, an expression of a very particular zeitgeist which was appearing all over western Europe at about the same time. fundamental to this spirit of the age was the political philosophy of absolutism. Whether in the Papal States, the Kingdom of France, the Duchy of Florence, or England, the key to culture was the monarch. The monarch ruled by divine right. … The function of the Church was to provide divine sanction for the state. The baroque understanding of absolutism was a logical development of the political philosophy of Machiavelli, but how the Church could fit into this kind of governmental structure was largely the contribution of the Jesuits. The Jesuits were at work in every court of Europe to show how Catholicism fit so well into this political philosophy. James I, on the other hand, was determined to impose the political-religious ideology of the baroque age on his Protestant subject. To do this, however, he had to counteract the influence of the Puritans, who insisted the Church be independent of the state. Polity was not the only matter at issue. There was a deeper theological problem. Even more James I had to overrule the Calvinists, who in the doctrine of predestination insisted on the sovereignty of God. That was the deep theological issue of the seventeenth century. (332)

The influence of baroque culture was very strong at the Stuart court. The queens of all three major Stuart kings were Roman Catholics. The fact that the queen of James I, Anne of Denmark, was converted to Catholicism after her marriage should by itself indicate how strong Counter-Reformation propaganda was at the Stuart court. Charles I had married Henrietta Maria, the sister of Louis XIII of France, who was the daughter of Marie de’ Medici. … (332)

The queen of Charles II, Catherine of Braganza, was a Portugese princess who definitely stayed in the background, but she was one more member of the court who supported Catholicism. When Charles II returned from his exile at the palace of Vincennes on the outskirts of Paris, many of his courtiers returned deeply influenced by both the religious and political outlook of baroque Catholicism. … Every cultivated Englishman could read French, and consequently a great deal of French literature was read in England. The literary and artistic taste of England enjoyed the flavors of France. / This was important for the development of the Anglican school of preaching.

The preacher was to do much the same thing as the painter: to make virtue appear noble, intelligent, and valiant. He was to amaze his hearers with the glory of godliness. In chapter 2 we spoke of this in relation to the preachers of the Counter-Reformation; in this chapter we will show how the Anglican School of preaching used this same approach to art. We will notice with particular interest how preaching becomes important as an art form. Preachers will give increasing care to publishing their sermons. Here we will see preaching becoming literature. The preachers of the Anglican School will make the sermons what their Book of Common Prayer had made of their prayers—very refined literature. (333)

Horton Davies has pointed out that a good number of Puritans, including Thomas Adams, Henry Smith, and John Prideaux, used a more elaborate style but remained thoroughly Puritan in theological outlook. (Davies, 7-31).

The characteristics of baroque preaching we noticed in chapter 2 were almost identical to what we find among the Anglican preachers of the seventeenth century. They loved to demonstrate their wit, to quote patristic and classical authors, to illustrate their points from natural history, and to use elaborate rhetorical forms, riddles, puns, paradoxes, and emblems. (334)

Shortly after his death a collection of ninety-six of his sermons was published by command of Charles I, the son and successor of James I, as testimony to the esteem in which Andrewes was held by his father. Not only had Andrewes pleased the Stuart monarchy with his preaching, but even more he had won the gratitude of the Stuarts by helping to shape for them the sort of church they wanted for their kingdom. Andrewes was one of the fathers of Anglicanism. A devout churchman, he helped bring into focus the via media and showed the way to a courtly piety. His greatest contribution, one for which all English-speaking Protestants much indeed be grateful, was his work on the King James Version of the Bible. It is he who is largely responsible for the beautiful language of the historical books of the Old Testament. (335)

Donne was much more explicitly Protestant than Andrewes. This one observes especially in his strong doctrines of grace. (340)

Donne is known above all as a preacher of the great feasts of the liturgical calendar. As dean of St. Paul’s he was responsible for preaching at Christmas, Easter, Whitsunday, and at the feast of the conversion of Saint Paul. On such red-letter days of the church year he preached at Saint Paul’s, but he often preached before both James I and Charles I at Whitehall. He had other preaching responsibilities as well. As any clergyman favored by the king, he had a number of livings, that is, endowed pulpits. The most prominent of these was Saint Dunstan in the West. Donne’s biographer Isaak Walton tells us that if he was in good health, Donne preached at least once a week. William R. Mueller says Donne himself was responsible for the preservation of his sermons, and he chose chiefly his festal sermons to be preserved. This is, of course, quite understandable in light of the particular importance given to feast days by Anglicans. (341)

The greatest of Donne’s sermons were preached on great occasions. He was indeed a master of the festal sermon. (346)

Unlike Calvin, who used his literary ability primarily to understand Scripture, Donne used his to engage the hearts and minds of his hearers. He saw great value in expressing the truths of religion in the cultivated rhythms and cadences of the language. For Calvin it was enough to present the Word of God simply and clearly, for that Word, being the Word of God, had authority. For Donne the preacher needed to court human hearts and affections for the ways of God. The beauty of language as a means of doing this. Baroque art aimed at impressing the viewer. It saw its function as buttressing the truth. Whether Caravaggio or Rubens or Bernini, the baroque artist aimed at amazing the spectator with the glories of the faith. In this sense Donne’s art is thoroughly baroque. Preaching is a miracle which by the blessing of Christ multiplies the bread of God for the salvation of men. Preaching magnifies the Word of God so that the pious are quickened to devotion. If the Puritans reacted against the cultivated oratory of the Anglicans and fashioned their own ‘plain style,’ there was far more to their resistance than lack of culture… For Donne grace was not irresistible. It needed to be supported by eloquence. The text of the sermon was the Word of God, and the sermon was the ordinance of God. The faithful needed the miraculous power of preaching to buttress the Scriptures, just as the Church needed the authority of the king to support her and bring her enemies to subjection. Donne’s preaching did just that: it presented the Word of God to the faithful with all the enhancements of Christian culture. (359)

Early in life Jeremy Taylor was recognized as a potential supporter of the Stuart establishment. He was a nimble-witted, attractive, handsome young preacher, and even as a young man, had a facility with words. From a literary point of view he was refined, learned, and ingenious. Quickly he came to the attention of Archbishop Laud, who was looking for just this sort of man to support his vision of a natural religion. (359)

He was obviously headed for a promising career in the Anglican establishment and was advancing rapidly, when suddenly the establishment fell from power. (360)

…with the restoration of Charles II and the Anglican establishment, he was made bishop of Down and Connor in Ireland. There he waged war against Catholics on one side and Presbyterians on the other. (360)

He did write beautifully; even granting that his art is baroque through and through, one reads it with pleasure. One makes the allowances one ahs to make in our age for the florid and sometimes pompous taste of the baroque, but when one had gotten beyond that, one finds real art in his work. (360)

While so many of the metaphysical preachers liked to use a Senecan style, Taylor is much more Ciceronian. He loves long, flowing, periodic sentences. (360)

A rather surprising things about Taylor is that his preaching plan seems to be guided by neither the order of the Anglican calendar nor the Scriptures themselves. His series of fifty-two sermons is intended to be a year’s course of sermons, but apparently it touches the traditional calendar only at Advent and Whitsuntide. He obviously likes to preach edifying moral discourses, but he never seems to finish them in a single sermon. He takes two or three sermons to make his point. Supposedly there are fifty-two sermons for the year, but it appears that these are really only twenty-one sermons stretched out over fifty-two weeks. (360)

By far the most interesting thing about these sermons is that they are an example of Arminian preaching as it was patronized by the Stuart establishment. The religion Taylor preached was concerned with making people good. It exhorted Christians to be virtuous, honest, hardworking subjects. A life of wisdom and virtue had its rewards, and God was, to be sure, merciful and generous in dispensing the blessings of life, but the greatest reward of the good life was virtue itself. One notices again and again in Taylor’s sermons that the life of virtue as understood by the philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome and the righteousness as taught by the prophets and apostles of Scripture are not too far apart. Classical literature teaches Christian virtue almost as well as Scripture, if we take his quotations and illustrations seriously. Scholastic moral theology is not very far away form Jeremy Taylor. Much of the preaching we find here is a warning against the seven deadly sins of the Schoolmen. (361)

There is an interesting correlation between the Arminian approach to the ministry of preaching and the baroque approach to the art of preaching. For the Arminian the preacher’s ministry was to persuade, or even more, to stir up the Christian to live a Christian moral life. The preacher’s job was to motivate his congregation to live a good moral life. The art of doing this was eloquence. The artist had an important place in baroque society. As we have said before, it was the job of the artist to impress the masses with the grandeur of the institutional structure of society, whether that society was political or religious. (362-363)


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