Permanent Preaching For A Permanent Pastorate -- By: Leonard Withington

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 019:74 (Apr 1862)
Article: Permanent Preaching For A Permanent Pastorate
Author: Leonard Withington


Permanent Preaching For A Permanent Pastorate

Rev. Leonard Withington

Some eminent critics found their systems on very narrow principles. Almost every critic has a system, and his remarks revolve around one centre-point, and, if its position is a false one, his criticism is imperfect. Longinus on the Sublime is a kind of canonical book, though it is hard to find out what his sublime is. He has no centre-point. Dionysius Halicarnassus, in his criticism on Herodotus and Thucydides, seems to have romance in his eye, rather than truthful history. He blames Thucydides for not being as pleasing as Herodotus; that is, for not telling as many lies. Dr. Bentley is very minute on the chronology of Milton’s Paradise Lost; the very last thing my humble self would think of in reading that divine poem. Dr. Johnson, in his Lives of the Poets, has one ruling canon; and that is, the curiosity with which we read a book to the end and “cast our eyes,” he says, “on the last leaf, as a solitary traveller in a desert looks at the setting sun.” He even applies this rule to Milton: “But original deficiency cannot be supplied. The want of human interest is always felt. Paradise Lost is one of the books which the reader admires, lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is. Its perusal is a duty rather than a pleasure. We read Milton for instruction, retire harrassed and overburdened, and look elsewhere for recreation; we desert our master and seek for companions.”1

Coleridge, though a worse critic, has a far more noble canon: “Not the poem which we have read, but that to which we return with the greatest pleasure, possesses the genuine power and claims the name of essential poetry.”2

In painting, the picture which glares most at first, exhausts its power on the first inspection. There are tunes which we hear once with delight, and never wish to hear repeated.

It is unfortunate for a preacher to have sermons which resemble these pictures or tunes, — where the cause of the first interest is the very cause of the want of interest in the second hearing. Some preachers seem to be doomed to their fate. It is hardly their fault that they wear out. Their very genius is a brush-wood fire which blazes and burns out in its own transient splendor. We cannot expect, we ought not to ask, that the meteor which shoots athwart the heavens, should have the permanence of a fixed star, of longer endurance but inferior brightness. There is another evil; there is nothing that mankind so severely revenge as their own i...

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