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ing at all, and do not even seem to imagine, that any one comes with the intention of doing so; ideas, arguments, images, all have passed before them as before a mirror; you will find no trace left. And the preacher himself, when he has once ascertained how it is, what zeal, what confidence in God will he not need, to hinder him from giving way mechanically to the idea, that he preaches only for the sake of preaching, just as the others listen for the mere purpose of hearing! It is true that they generally listen with attention,-even with interest,-but the discourse once over, all is over. Then-"
"My dear nephew, I will confess, that I have nothing to reply to all this, but also, that I am not convinced by it. You have reason on your side, am I on that account wrong?"
"And I am not on your side, then?"
"Not at all. A sermon has two objects, and you only mention one."
"Two objects ?"
"Yes. One, a special object, that is to say, an object directly connected with the particular subject of the discourse; which is, perhaps, some truth to be believed, or vice to be shunned, or virtue to be acquired;-the other, a general object, more vague, but likewise of more grandeur;-it aims at elevating the soul,making it breathe a purer air than that of the earth. Do you understand me now?"
“You mean to say, that if I have for instance to preach upon lying, my hearer should go away with two impressions, one relative to lying, and what is faulty in this vice,-the other,
should content himself with admiring the beauty of the mirror, without removing the stain,' Balzac was more delighted than ever, with this, and forgetting the lesson altogether in his attention to the manner of it, 'Ah,' he cried, louder than ever, that is more admirable than all the rest."St. Beuve. Port Royal. Book iii.
pure y a sentiment of edification, independent of the subject, and the result only of the fact that my discourse is a godly discourse, no matter on what subject. Is not that your idea?"
"Exactly. One should be able to forget even that you have preached upon lying, and yet draw some benefit from your disWell! all that you have said is true as regards the first of my two objects. It is clear, that if pride prevents me from recognizing myself in the portrait which you have drawn of the liar, your sermon will be useless to me, so far as it is a sermon on lying, but do you not see, that it can still be of service to me as an edifying discourse, from the sole fact of having directed my mind for a certain length of time upon a serious or christian subject? And to speak plainly, the more I think of it, the more I am persuaded that the results of preaching are almost always confined to this. I know very well, that many a liar may be mentioned to me, corrected by a sermon on lying, and many a usurer profitably alarmed by a sermon on usury; therefore I have said almost always and not always; but for one man upon whom you may have had the happiness thus to exercise a direct or definite effect, there are a hundred, perhaps a thousand, as it may be, upon whom you can only act indirectly and vaguely. They came to church without troubling themselves as to the subject which you would select, and they leave without troubling themselves as to the one you have taken, and yet all is not lost. The field has not received or reproduced the particular kind of seed which you wished on this day to sow, but it has been cultivated, and that is always something."
-"Certainly," said Fénélon, “and I am glad, that having commenced with an idea so dissimilar from mine, you end by so nearly agreeing with me. All that you have just said, I have many a time said to myself. It is sad, but true; what is to be done? And since it is not in our power to have such hearers
as we would wish, and such as they should be in order that preaching should bring forth its proper fruits, let us take them as they are given us; the field is grand enough as it is. But it is precisely because the direct object is so often missed, and because the object of the sermon is confined for the great majority, to a vague impression, for that very reason, I say, I would not have the direct effort too much run after, or too much importance set on the arguments which seem to conduct thither.”
"In this sense I grant it; but you will admit also, that it would not be well to say this to young preachers. It would open too wide a door to vague ideas, amplifications, and discoursings without order or vigor."
"Possibly. Do you think I flatter myself that I always avoid this stumbling-block? Therefore I should take care never to express this idea, without surrounding it by the restrictions which I feel it needs. I would never say-Hasten to quit details, in order to launch into general considerations, finish your reasoning quickly, in order to come to sentiment.' But this I should say, 'Let there be a feeling beneath every one of your arguments;* let edification ever walk hand in hand with instruction.' You see it is not necessary to proscribe argument and proofs, but to arrange, so that in the very probable case where the hearer does not recollect these, his heart will preserve an impression of them in default of his head. And in this it is, that Father Bourdaloue is wanting. If eloquence be the art of reasoning, he is the most eloquent man of the age; if it be the art of touching the soul, I will venture to say, that with far less talent, one might be more eloquent than he. You, a grave and
* «St. Augustine is touching even when he lays down his points."FENELON'S "Dialogues on Eloquence."
"He is quite able to convince, but I scarcely know any preacher who less persuades and touches you."-FENELON. Pulpit Eloquence.
learned man, accustomed to follow the thread of an argument, and to retain it the better, the closer it is drawn, you lose nothing of his sermons, and you are inclined to judge them only the more favorably, the more they offer to your memory for retention. If I could take upon myself to listen to them in this spirit, I should partake of your admiration. But a sermon is for everybody. If you would judge of it properly, put yourself in the position of the mass of hearers. And, in order to do this, it is not enough for you to suppose yourself much less learned than you really are. The true characteristic of the mass is, that they judge by impression; now, judge by mere impression, and you will have put yourself in their situation, and your judgment will start from the only point of view which is proper or true in this case. Has not Cicero himself said, that, a discourse which does not obtain the approbation of the people, is unworthy of that of the learned? With much more reason then, must we say this of a sermon. Once more, put yourself in the place of the mass." "It is easy to say."
"And still easier to do, be assured. You never hear a sermon that you do not do this without suspecting it. Seated in the preacher's presence, there are two men in you; the well-informed man, who is about to decide the discourse to be either well or badly written, well or badly delivered, and the natural man, who will either open or shut his heart to the impressions of the word of God. Well, what I ask of you is, to consult rather the second than the first. Ah, we only consult it too much, when it is a question of escaping from the consequences of the best established truths; let us then consult it a little, when the matter is, to know what the sermon ought to be. Let us consult it in regard to Father Bourdaloue's sermons. All these arguments which you remember so well, what remains if they are forgotten? Very little, you must confess. And how many sermons there are, of
which still less would remain, since those who preach them have often the same fault, and yet are far from possessing the same talent."
"But then," said M. de Fénélon, with a little embarrassment, "how is his success to be explained? For really it is not at court only that he is loved and admired. Last year, at Paris, when he was to preach in the evening, Nôtre Dame was crowded from early in the morning; when he was to preach in the morning, people passed the night in the church. An hour be fore the sermon you would meet thousands going away without having been able to enter. I do not see how that agrees exactly with your criticism, that he does not preach for the people."
“I said that he failed in the true end; I have never denied that he displays in his means, an extraordinary copiousness, art and genius. The enthusiasm of the crowd only proves one thing to me; that the crowd like himself, is deceived and takes the means for the end. If they knew better what a sermon should be, and what effect it should leave behind, they would be of my opinion. Believe me, in this respect, we are neither so enlightened, nor above all, so christianized as we imagine. Because we no longer hear quotations from Horace and Virgil,nor the mingling of gods and saints in the sermon,—we are ready to felicitate our orators, as if they had entirely succeeded in throwing off their profane yoke; because it is no longer permitted to make points, and because antithesis is more sparingly used, it is believed that there is no more idle exercise of the wits, and the good people fancy that they hear everything in the world which is most grave and christian. Father Bourdaloue gives them indeed, better than any other, the kind of nourishment which they come for; but is what they come for, good? And if it be not, do you think it becomes so from the fact that it is seized with avidity? I know very well, that the appearance of