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vice, learn a rote of buffoonery that serveth all occasions, and refutes the strongest arguments for piety and good manners. These have a set of ridicule calculated for all sermons and all preachers, and can be extremely witty as often as they please upon the same fund.
Let me now, in the last place, offer some remedies against this great evil.
It will be one remedy against the contempt of preaching rightly to consider the end for which it was designed. There are many who place abundance of merit in going to church, although it be with no other prospect but that of being well entertained, wherein if they happen to fail, they return wholly disappointed. Hence it is become an impertinent vein among people of all sorts to hunt after what they call a good sermon, as if it were a matter of pastime and diversion. Our business, alas! is quite another thing; either to learn, or at least be reminded of our duty, to apply the doctrines delivered, compare the rules we hear with our lives and actions, and find wherein we have transgressed. These the dispositions men should bring into the house of God, and then they will be little concerned about the preacher's wit or eloquence, nor be curious to inquire out his faults and infirmities, but consider how to correct their own. Another remedy against the contempt of
preaching is that would consider whether it be not reasonable to give more allowance for the different abilities of preachers than they usually do. Refinements of style and flights of wit, as they are not properly the business of any preacher, so they cannot possibly be the talents of all. In most other discourses men are satisfied with sober sense and plain reason, and, as understandings usually go, even that is not over frequent. Then why they should be so over nice in expectation of eloquence, where it is neither necessary nor convenient, is hard to imagine.
Lastly, The scorners of preaching would do well to consider that this talent of ridicule they value so much is a perfection very easily acquired and applied to all things whatsoever, neither is anything at all the worse because it is capable of being perverted to burlesque; perhaps it may be the more perfect upon that score, since we know the most celebrated pieces have been thus treated with greatest success. It is in any man's power to suppose a fool's cap on the wisest head, and then laugh at his own supposition. I think there are not many things cheaper than supposing and laughing; and if the uniting these two talents can bring a thing into contempt, it is hard to know where it may end. To conclude:- These considerations may
perhaps have some effect while men awake, but what arguments shall we use to the sleeper? what methods shall we take to hold open his eyes? Will he be moved by considerations of common civility? We know it is reckoned a point of very bad manners to sleep in private company, when perhaps the tedious impertinence of many talkers would render it at least as excusable as the dullest sermon. Do they think it a small thing to watch four hours at a play where all virtue and religion are openly reviled, and can they not watch one half hour to hear them defended? Is this to deal like a judge, (I mean like a good judge,) to listen on one side of the cause and sleep on the other? I shall add but one word more: that this indecent sloth is very much owing to that luxury and excess men usually practise upon this day, by which half the service thereof is turned to sin, men dividing their time between God and their bellies, when after a gluttonous meal, their senses dozed and stupefied, they retire to God's house to sleep out the afternoon. Surely, brethren, these things ought not so to be.
“He that hath ears to hear let him hear." And God give us all grace to hear and receive his holy word to the salvation of our own souls!