Science that treats of the composition and delivery of a sermon or other religious discourse
Homiletics.—Homiletics is the science that treats of the composition and delivery of a sermon or other religious discourse. It includes all forms of preaching, viz., the sermon, homily, and catechetical instruction. Since the nineteenth century, homiletics has taken its place, especially in Germany, as a branch of pastoral theology. The “Standard Dictionary” defines Homiletics as “that branch of rhetoric that treats of the composition and delivery of sermons or homilies”. Many differ from this definition, and maintain that homiletics as a science is distinct from rhetoric. Of this we shall be better able to judge after considering the origin and history of homiletics; and the question will be noticed towards the end of this article. As the first form of preaching was largely the homily, the reader is referred to the article thereon for much that will supplement what is here stated. Needless to say, Christ himself preached, and He commissioned His Apostles to do so. His preaching included two forms of sermon, the missionary and the ministerial (to which correspond the magisterium and the ministerium of the Church), the former to unbelievers, the latter to those already in the Faith. Of the latter we have a striking example in the discourse after the Last Supper, John, xiv-xvi. It cannot be said that His preaching took any definite, rounded form, in the sense of a modern sermon; His aim was to sow the seed of the word, which He scattered broadcast, like the sower in the parable. His commission to His Apostles included both kinds. For the former or missionary preaching, see Matt., xxviii, 19; Mark, xvi, 15; iii, 14; Luke, ix, 2. St. Paul’s sermon referred to in Acts, xx, 7-11, is an example of the second kind of preaching. In this the Apostles were supported by assistants who were elected and consecrated for that purpose, for example, Timothy and Titus; as also by those who had been favored with charismata. The homily referred to in Justin Martyr‘s “Apology” (cf. Homily) is an example of ministerial, as distinct from missionary, preaching. In missionary preaching the Apostles were also assisted, but in an informal way, by the laity, who explained the Christian doctrine to their acquaintances amongst unbelievers who, in their visits to the Christian assemblies, must have heard something of it, v. g., cf. I Cor., xiv, 23-24. This is particularly true of Justin Martyr, who, wearing his philosopher’s cloak, went about for that purpose. The sermons to the faithful in the early ages were of the simplest kind, being merely expositions or paraphrases of the passage of Scripture that was read, coupled with extempore effusions of the heart. This explains why there is little or nothing in the way of sermons or homilies belonging to that period. It also explains the strange statement made by Sozomen (Hist. Eccl., VII, xix), and by Cassiodorus in his “Tripartite History”, which Duchesne (Christian Worship, p. 171, tr. London, 1903) apparently accepts, that no one preached at Rome. (Sozomen wrote about the time of Pope Xystus III.) Thomassin’s explanation (Vetus et Nova Eccl. Disciplina, II, lxxxii, 503) of Sozomen’s statement is that there was no preaching in the sense of an elaborate or finished discourse before the time of Pope Leo—with the exception, perhaps, of the address on virginity by Pope Liberius to Marcellina, sister of St. Ambrose, on the occasion of her taking the veil, which is regarded as a private discourse. And the reason for this he attributes to the stress of persecution. Neander (I, 420, note) says of Sozomen’s statement: “The remark could not extend to the early times; but suppose it did, it meant that the sermon was only secondary. Or the fact may have been that this Eastern writer was deceived by false accounts from the West; or it may have been that the sermon in the Western Church did not occupy so important a place as it did in the Greek Church.”
The office of preaching belonged to bishops, and priests preached only with their permission. Even two such distinguished men as St. Augustine and St. Chrysostom preached, as priests, only when commissioned by their respective bishops. Origen as a layman expounded the Scriptures, but it was by special permission. But this is quite different from saying (as is stated by “Chambers’ Encyclopaedia”, the “Encyclopaedia Metropolitans”, the “Encyclopaedia Britannica”, older edition) that priests were not ordinarily allowed to preach before the fifth century. This is not tenable in the light of history. For instance, Felix, priest and martyr, preached in the third century, under two bishops, Maximus and Quintus. Of the latter it was said that his mouth had the tongue of Felix (Thomassin, ibid., c. xiii, 505; Paulinus, “Poems”). Priests, indeed, were forbidden to preach in Alexandria; but that was on account of the Arian heresy. A custom springing from this had spread to the north of Africa; but Valerius, Bishop of Hippo, broke through it, and had Augustine, as yet a priest, to preach before him, because he himself was unable to do so with facility in the Latin language—”cum non satis expedite Latino sermone concionari posset”. This was against the custom of the place, as Possidius relates; but Valerius justified his action by an appeal to the East—”in orientalibus ecclesiis id ex more fieri sciens “Even during the time of the prohibition in Alexandria, priests, as we know from Socrates and Sozomen, interpreted the Scriptures publicly in Caesarea, in Cappadocia, and in Cyprus, candles being lighted the while—accensis lucernis. As soon as the Church received freedom under Constantine, preaching developed very much, at least in external form. Then for the first time, if, perhaps, we except St. Cyprian, the art of oratory was applied to preaching, especially by St. Gregory of Nazianzus, the most florid of Cappadocia’s triumvirate of genius. He was already a trained orator, as were many of his hearers, and it is no wonder, as Bardenhewer (Patrology, p. 290) expresses it, “he had to pay tribute to the taste of his own time which demanded a florid and grandiloquent style”. But, at the same time, he condemned those preachers who used the eloquence and pronunciation of the theatre. The most notable preachers of the century, St. Basil and the two Gregories (the “Clover-leaf of Cappadocia”), Sts. Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, and Hilary, were all noted orators. Of the number the greatest was St. Chrysostom, the greatest since St. Paul, nor has he been since equalled. Even Gibbon, while not doing him justice, had to praise him; and his teacher of rhetoric, Libanius, is said to have intended John as his successor, “if the Christians had not taken him”. It is a mistake, however, to imagine that they preached only oratorical sermons. Quite the contrary; St. Chrysostom’s homilies were models of simplicity, and he frequently interrupted his discourse to put questions in order to make sure that he was understood; while St. Augustine’s motto was that he humbled himself that Christ might be exalted. In passing we might refer to a strange feature of the time, the applause with which a preacher was greeted. St. Chrysostom especially had to make frequent appeals to his hearers to keep quiet. Bishops commonly preached outside their own dioceses, especially in the great cities; polished sermons were evidently in demand, and a stipend was given, for we read that two Asiatic bishops, Antiochus and Severianus, went to Constantinople to preach, being more desirous of money than of the spiritual welfare of their hearers (Thomassin, ibid., ix, 504).
After the age here described preaching was on the decline in the West, partly because of the decay of the Latin language (cf. Fenelon, “Dial.”, 164), and in the East, owing to the controversies on Arianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism, Macedonianism, and other heresies. But still preaching was regarded as the chief duty of bishops; for instance, Caesarius, Bishop of Arles, gave charge of all the temporal affairs of his diocese to deacons, that he might devote all his time to the reading of the Scriptures, to prayer, and to preaching. The next great name in preaching is that of St. Gregory the Great, particularly as a homilist. He preached twenty homilies, and dictated twenty more, because, through illness and loss of voice, he was unable to preach them personally. He urged bishops very strongly to preach; and, after holding up to them the example of the Apostles, he threatened the bishops of Sardinia in the following words: “Si cujus libet Episcopi Paganum rusticum invenire potuero, in Episcopum fortiter vindicabo” (III, ep. xxvi). An edict was issued by King Guntram stating that the assistance of the public judges was to be used to bring to the hearing of the word of God, through fear of punishment, those who were not disposed to come through piety. The Synod of Trullo laid down that bishops should preach on all days, especially on Sundays; and, by the same synod, bishops who preached outside their own diocese were reduced to the status of priests, because being desirous of another’s harvest they were indifferent to their own—”ut qui alienae messis appetentes essent, suae incuriosi”. At the Council of Arles, in 813, bishops were strongly exhorted to preach; and the Council of Mainz, in the same year, laid down that bishops should preach on Sundays and feast days either themselves (suo marte) or through their vicars. In the Second Council of Reims (813), can. xiv, xv, it was enjoined that bishops should preach the homilies and sermons of the Fathers, so that all could understand. And in the Third Council of Tours (can. xvii), in the same year, bishops were ordered to make a translation of the homilies of the Fathers into the rustic Roman tongue, or theodesque—the rustic Roman tongue being a species of corrupt Latin, or patois, understood by the uneducated (Thomassin, “De Benef.”, II, I. III, . Ixxxv, p. 510). Charlemagne and Louis the Pious were equally insistent on the necessity of preaching. The former went so far as to appoint a special day, and any bishop who failed to preach in his cathedral before that day was to be deposed. Pastors, too, were ordered to preach to their people as best they could; if they knew the Scriptures, they were to preach them; if not, they were at least to exhort their hearers to avoid evil and do good (Sixth Council of Arles, 813, can. x). The Homiliarium of Charlemagne is treated elsewhere (see Homiliarium).
We next come to the Middle Ages. It has been commonly said by non-Catholic writers that there was little or no preaching during that time. So popular was preaching, and so deep the interest taken in it, that preachers commonly found it necessary to travel by night, lest their departure should be prevented. It is only in a treatise on the history of preaching that justice could be done this period. The reader is referred to Digby’s “Mores Catholici”, vol. II, pp. 158-172, and to Neale, “Mediaeval Sermons”. As to style, it was simple and majestic, possessing little, perhaps, of so-called eloquence as at present understood, but much religious power, with an artless simplicity, a sweetness and persuasiveness all its own, and such as would compare favorably with the hollow declamation of a much-lauded later period. Some sermons were wholly in verse, and, in their intense inclusiveness of thought, remind one of the Sermon on the Mount:
Magna promisimus; majora promissa sunt nobis:
Servemus haec; adspiremus ad illa.
Voluptas brevis; poena perpetua.
Modica passio; gloria infinita.
Multorum vocatio; paucorum electio;
(St. Francis, as quoted by Digby, op. cit., 159.)
The characteristics of the preaching of the time might be summed up as follows: First, an extraordinary use of Scripture, not a mere introducing of the Sacred Text as an accretion, but such a use as comes from entwinement with the preacher’s own thought. It would almost appear as if many preachers knew the Scriptures by heart. In some cases, however, this admirable use was marred by an exaggerated mystical interpretation, which originated in the East and was much sought after by the Jews. Secondly, power on the part of the preachers of adapting their discourses to the wants of the poor and ignorant. Thirdly, simplicity, the aim being to impress a single striking idea. Fourthly, use of familiar maxims, examples, and illustrations from life—their minds must have been much in touch with nature. And, fifthly, intense realization, which necessarily resulted in a certain dramatic effect—they saw with their eyes, heard with their ears, and the past became present. For examples, the reader is again referred to the collection of “Mediaeval Sermons” by Neale.
A few words as to the influence of scholastic philosophy. It supplied an almost inexhaustible store of information; it trained the mind in analysis and precision; whilst, at the same time, it supplied a lucidity of order and cogency of arrangement such as we look for in vain in even the great orations of Chrysostom. On the other hand, philosophy regards man only as an intellectual being, without considering his emotions, and makes its appeal solely to his intellectual side. And, even in this appeal, philosophy, while, like algebra, speaking the formal language of intellect, is likely to be wanting from the view-point of persuasiveness, inasmuch as, from its nature, it makes for condensation rather than for amplification. The latter is the most important thing in oratory—”Summa laus eloquentiae amplificare rem ornando.” Fenelon (Second Dialogue) describes it as portrayal; De Quincey, as a holding of the thought until the mind gets time to eddy about it; Newman gives a masterly analysis of it (Idea of a Univ., 1899, p. 280); his own sermons are remarkable for this quality of amplification, as are those of Bourdaloue on the intellectual, and those of Massillon on the intellectual-emotional side, v. g. the latter’s sermon on the Prodigal Son. Philosophy, indeed, is necessary for oratory; philosophy alone does not constitute oratory, and, if too one-sided, may have an injurious effect—”Logic, therefore, so much as is useful, is to be referred to this one place with all her well-couched heads and topics, until it be time to open her contracted palm into a graceful and ornate rhetoric” (Milton, “Tractate of Education“). What has been here stated refers to philosophy as a system, not to individual philosophers. It is scarcely necessary to say that many Scholastics, such as Sts. Thomas and Bonaventure, were noted preachers. It is a pity, however, that St. Bonaventure did not treat a little more fully of Dilatatio, which forms the third part of his work “De Arte Concionandi”.
In a sketch, however brief, of the history of preaching, a reference to the mystics is called for; but, as their preaching cannot be explained without an exposition of their system, the reader is referred to the article on MYSTICISM. Suffice it to say here that the tendency of mysticism is, in the main, the opposite to that of philosophy. Mysticism makes for warmth; philosophy, for coldness—”Cold as a mountain in its star-pitched tent stood high philosophy.” The next noted period in the history of preaching is the Renaissance. This period, too, is treated in its proper place. As to preaching, Humanism contributed more to oratorical display than to piety in the pulpit. The motto of its two representative types, Reuchlin and Erasmus, was: “Back to Cicero and Quintilian.” Erasmus on visiting Rome exclaimed: “Quam mellitas eruditorum hominum confabulationes, quot mundi lumina.” Batiffol (Hist. of the Roman Breviary, p. 230) says: “One Good Friday, preaching before the pope, the most famous orator of the Roman Court considered that he could not better praise the Sacrifice of Calvary than by relating the self-devotion of Decius and the sacrifice of Iphigenia.” Fortunately, this period did not last long; the good sense of ecclesiastics rebelled against it, and the religious upheaval that soon followed gave them something else to think of. In the Reformation and post-Reformation period the air was too charged with controversy to favor high-class preaching. The Council of Trent recommended preachers to turn aside from polemics; it also (Sess. V, cap. ii) pronounced that the primary duty of preaching devolved on bishops, unless they were hindered by a legitimate impediment; and ordered that they were to preach in person in their own church, or, if impeded, through others; and, in other churches, through pastors or other representatives.
The famous names of the French preachers of the classical seventeenth-century period—according to Voltaire, probably the greatest in pulpit oratory of all time—are fully dealt with in their proper place. It is sufficient to state here that the greatest were Bossuet, Bourdaloue, and Massillon; Fenelon, matchless, probably, for purity of style, burnt his sermons. The first was the most majestic; the second, the most logical and intellectually compelling; the third, the greatest searcher of hearts, the most like Chrysostom, and, taken all in all, the greatest of the three. We are told that Voltaire kept a copy of his “Grand Carème” on his table, side by side with the “Athalie” of Racine. In this age Chrysostom was the great model for imitation; but it was Chrysostom the orator, not Chrysostom the homilist. It would be a mistake at the present day to imitate their style, which was influenced not a little by the unhealthy stimulus of the admiring court of Louis XIV. Their majestic style, with its grand exordium and its sublime peroration, became the fashion in the succeeding age; but it was a case of ordinary men trying to don the armor, and to handle the weapons, of giants, or of the unskillful rider venturing on the horses of Achilles. The result was that the imitators became proficient only in mannerisms and affectation, and dropped into sickly sentimentality and mechanical formalism. The sensible “Dialogues” of Fenelon, however, remained as a great check, being in fact to preaching what Hamlet’s address to the players has been to acting. Of these “Dialogues” Bishop Dupanloup has said: “If the precepts of Fenelon had been well understood, they would have long since fixed the character of sacred eloquence among us.” Sound principles, too, werelaid down by Blaise Gisbert in his “L’Eloquence chretienne dans l’idee et clans la pratique”, by Amadeus Bajocensis in “Paulus Ecclesiastes, seu Eloquentia Christiana”, and by Guido ab Angelis in “De Verbi Dei Pradicatione”, all of which sounded a return to the simplicity of style of the Fathers.
In this brief historical sketch we are noticing only epochs, and the next important one is that of the so-called conferences in Notre-Dame in Paris, following the Revolution of 1830. The most prominent name identified with this new style of preaching was that of the Dominican Lacordaire, who, for a time, with Montalembert, was associate editor with de Lamennais of “L’Avenir”. This new style of preaching discarded the form, the division, and analysis of the scholastic method. The power of Lacordaire as an orator was beyond question; but the conferences, as they have come down to us, while possessing much merit, are an additional proof that oratory is too elusive to be committed to the pages of a book. The Jesuit Pere de Ravignan nobly shared with Lacordaire the honor of occupying the pulpit of Notre-Dame. For some years, other able but less eloquent men followed, and the semi-religious, semi-philosophic style was beginning to grow tiresome, when Monsabre, a disciple of Lacordaire, with a single stroke set it aside, and confined himself, in a masterly series of discourses, to an explanation of the Creed; whereupon it was sententiously remarked that the bell had been ringing long enough, it was time for Mass to begin (cf. Boyle, “Irish Eccl. Rec.”, May, 1909).
As to preaching at the present day, we can clearly trace the influence, in many respects, of Scholasticism, both as to matter and form. In matter a sermon may be either moral, dogmatic, historical, or liturgical—by moral and dogmatic it is meant that one element will predominate, without, however, excluding the other. As to form, a discourse may be either a formal, or set, sermon; a homily (for different kinds see Homily); or a catechetical instruction. In the formal, or set, sermon the influence of Scholasticism is most strikingly seen in the analytic method, resulting in divisions and subdivisions. This is the thirteenth-century method, which, however, had its beginnings in the sermons of Sts. Bernard and Anthony. The underlying syllogism, too, in every wellthought-out sermon is due to Scholasticism; how far it should appear is a question that belongs to a treatise on homiletics. As to the catechetical discourse, it has been so much favored by Pope Pius X that it might be regarded as one of the characteristics of preaching at the present day. It is, however, a very old form of preaching, as the name (from kata and eche) implies, i.e. the instruction that was given by word of mouth to the catechumens. It was used by Christ Himself, by St. Paul, by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, by St. Clement and Origen at Alexandria, by St. Augustine, who wrote a special treatise thereon (De catechizandis rudibus), also, in later times, by Gerson, chancellor of the University of Paris, who wrote “De parvulis ad Christum trahendis”; Clement XI and Benedict XIV gave to it all the weight of their authority, and one of the greatest of all catechists was St. Charles Borromeo. There is the danger, however, from the very nature of the subject, of this form of preaching becoming too dry and purely didactic, a mere catechesis, or doctrinism, to the exclusion of the moral element and of Sacred Scripture. In recent days, organized missionary preaching to non-Catholics has received a new stimulus. In the United States, particularly, this form of religious activity has flourished; and the Paulists, amongst whom the name of Father Hecker is deserving of special mention, are to be mainly identified with the revival. Special facilities are afforded at the central institute of the organization for the training of those who are to impart catechetical instruction, and the non-controversial principles of the association are calculated to commend it to all earnestly seeking after truth.
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF PREACHING.—Practice preceded theory. Certain ideas are to be found in the Fathers, and these have been collected by Paniel in the introduction to his work “Gesch. der christl. Beredsamkeit”. The first to treat of the theory of preaching was St. Chrysostom, in his work “On the Priesthood” (peri Ierosunes). Inasmuch as this contains only reflections on preaching, St. Augustine’s “De doctrines Christiana” might be regarded as the first manual on the subject. It consists of four books. The first three deal with collecting the materials for preaching, “modus inveniendi quae intelligenda sunt”, and the last with the presentation thereof, “modus proferendi qum intellecta sunt”. He goes to Cicero for rules in the latter. He makes a distinction, in which he evidently follows Cicero, between sapientia (wisdom) and eloquentia (the best expression of it). Sapientia without eloquentia will do no good; neither will eloquentia without sapientia, and it may do harm; the ideal is sapientia with eloquentia. He adapts Cicero’s ut doceat, ut delectet, ut flectat, changing them to ut veritas pateat, ut placeat, ut moveat; and lays down these as the rules by which a sermon is to be judged. This work of Augustine was the classic one in homiletics. In this connection we are reminded of the three conditions which Hugh of St. Victor (d. 1141) in the Middle Ages laid down for a sermon: that it should be “holy, prudent, and noble”, for which, respectively, he required sanctity, knowledge, and eloquence in the preacher; and of Fenelon’s “must prove, must portray, must impress” (Second Dialogue). We might also mention St. Augustine’s work “De rudibus catechizandis”. St. Gregory the Great’s work, “Liber regulae pastoralis”, is still extant, but is inferior to St. Augustine’s; it is rather a treatise on pastoral theology than on homiletics. We have it on the testimony of Hincmar that a copy used to be given to bishops at their consecration. In the ninth century Rabanus Maurus (d. 856), Archbishop of Mainz, wrote a treatise “De institutione clericorum”, in which he depends much on St. Augustine. In the twelfth century Guibert, Abbot of Nogent (d. 1124), wrote a famous work on preaching entitled “Quo ordine sermo fieri dehet”. This is one of the historical landmarks in preaching. It is replete with judicious instruction; it recommends that preaching should be preceded by prayer; it says that it is more important to preach about morals than on faith, that for moral sermons the human heart must be studied, and that the best way of doing so is (as Massillon recommended in later times) to look into one’s own. It is more original and more independent than the work of Rabanus Maurus, who, as has been said, drew largely from St. Augustine. Guibert’s work was recommended by Pope Alexander as a model to all preachers. St. Francis gave to his friars the same directions as are herein contained.
To the same period belongs the “Summa de arte praedicatories” by Alain de Lille. He gives a definition of preaching: “Manifesta et publica instructio morum et fidei, informationi hominum deserviens, ex rationum semita et auctoritatum fonte proveniens”. He lays stress on explanation and use of Scripture, and recommends the preacher to insert verba commotiva. The remarks of Csarius of Heisterbach (d. 1240) have been collected by Cruel; his sermons display skill in construction and considerable oratorical power. Conrad of Brundelsheini (d. 1321), whose sermons have come down to us under his cognomen of “Brother Sock” (Sermones Fratris Socci), was one of the most interesting preachers at this time in Germany. Humbert of Romans, General of the Dominicans, in the second book of his work, “De eruditione praedicatorum”, claims that he can teach “a way of promptly producing a sermon for any set of men, andfor all variety of circumstances” (Neale, “Mediaeval Sermons”, Introd., xix). Linsenmayer, in his history of preaching, gives information about Humbert, who was a severe critic of the sermons of his time. Trithemius quotes a work by Albertus Magnus, “De arte praedicandi”, which is lost. St. Bonaventure wrote “De arte concionandi”, in which he treats of divisio, distinctio, dilatatio, but deals extensively only with the first. St. Thomas’s claim rests chiefly on the “Summa”, which, of course, has principally influenced preaching since, both in matter and form. He insists very strongly (III, Q. lxvii, a. 2) on the importance of preaching, and says that it belongs principally to bishops, and baptizing to priests, the latter of whom he regards as holding the place of the seventy disciples. There is a treatise entitled “De arte et Vero modo praedicandi” attributed to him, but it is simply a compilation of his ideas about preaching that was made by another. Henry of Hesse is credited with a treatise, “De arte praedicandi”, which is probably not due to him. There is a monograph quoted by Hart-wig which is interesting for the classification of the forms of sermon: modus antiquissimus, i.e. postillatio, which is purely the exegetic homily; modus modernus, the thematic style; modus antiquus, a sermon on the Biblical text; and modus subalternus, a mixture of homiletic and text sermon. Jerome Dungersheym wrote a tract “De modo discendi et docendi ad populum sacra seu de modo praedicandi” (1513). He treats of his subject on three points: the preacher, the sermon, the listeners. He lays stress on Scripture as the book of the preacher. Ulrich Surgant wrote a “Manuale Curatorum” (1508), in which he also recommends Scripture. In his first book he gives for material of preaching the usual order—credenda, acienda, fugienda, timenda, appetenda. And he ends by saying: “Congrua materia praedicationis est Sacra Scriptura.” He uses the figure of a tree in laying stress on the necessity of an organic structure (Kirchenlex., pp. 201-202).
In the works of the two humanists, Reuchlin (Liber congestorum de arte praedicandi) and Erasmus (Ecclesiastes seu de ratione concionandi), the return is marked to Cicero and Quintilian. A masterwork on the art of preaching is the “Rhetorica Sacra” (Lisbon, 1576) of Luis de Granada, for modern use, perhaps, a little old. The work shows an easy grasp of rhetoric, founded on the principles of Aristotle, Demetrius, and Cicero. He treats the usual subjects of invention, arrangement, style, and delivery in easy and polished Latin. Of the same class is Didacus Stella in his “Liber de modo concionandi” (1576). Valerio, in Italy, also wrote on the art of preaching. We next come to another of the landmarks on preaching, the “Instructiones Pastorum” by St. Charles Borromeo (1538-84). At his request Valerio, Bishop of Verona, wrote a systematic treatise on homiletics entitled “Rhetorica Ecclesiastica” (1575), in which he points out the difference between profane and sacred eloquence, and emphasizes the two principal objects of the preacher, to teach and to move (docere et commovere). Laurentius a Villavicentio, in his work “De formandis sacris concionibus” (1565), does not approve of transferring the ancient modes of speaking to preaching. He would treat the truths of the Gospel according to I Tim., iii, 16. He also recommended moderation in fighting heresy. The same was the view of St. Francis Borgia, whose contribution to homiletics is the small but practical work: “Libellus de ratione concionandi”. Claudius Acquaviva, General of the Jesuits, wrote, in 1635, “Instructio pro superioribus” (in “Epistolae praepositorum generalium ad patres et fratres Si.”). They were principally ascetic, and in them he regulated the spiritual training necessary for the preacher. Carolus Regius, S.J., deals, in his “Orator Christianus” (1613), with the whole field of homiletics under the grouping: “De concionatore”; “De concione”; “De concionantis prudentia et industries”. Much is to be found in the writings of St. Vincent de Paul, of St. Alphonsus Liguori, and in St. Francis de Sales, especially in his celebrated letter to Monsignor Fremiot, Archbishop of Bourges. Among the Dominicans we find Alexander Natalis with his “Institutio concionantium tripartita” (Paris, 1702). In the “Rhetorica ecclesiastica” (1627) of Jacobus de Graffiis is contained a symposium of the instructions on preaching by the Franciscan Francis Panigarola, the Jesuit Francis Borgia, and the Carmelite Johannes a Jesu. The “Dialogues” of Fenelon, the work of Pere Blaise Gisbert, that of Amadeus Bajocensis and of Guido ab Angelis have already been referred to. In the nineteenth century homiletics took its place as a branch of pastoral theology, and many manuals have been written thereon, for instance, in German, compendia by Brand, Laberenz, Zarbl, Fluck, and Schiich; in Italian, by Gotti and Audisio; and many in French and English, some of which are quoted in the bibliography at the end of this article.
The question as to how far homiletics should make use of profane rhetoric is often raised. Some assert its independent character, and say that it is independent in origin, in matter, and in purpose: in origin, because it has not grown out of profane rhetoric; in matter, because it has to deal not with natural, but with supernatural truths clearly defined in Revelation; and in purpose because the aim is to lead souls to cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit. The up-holders of this view point also to certain passages in Scripture and in the Fathers, notably to the words of St. Paul (I Cor., ii, 4): “And my speech and my preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in shewing of the Spirit and power”; also to I Cor., i, 17; ii, 1, 2; and II Cor., iv, 2; and to the testimony of Cyprian (Ep. ad Donat.), Arnobius (Adv. Nationes), Lactantius (Institutionum divinarum), and to Sts. Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine, Jerome, and Chrysostom. The last-named says that the great difference may be summed up in this: that the orator seeks personal glory, the preacher practical good. On the other hand St. Paul’s own sermons are in many cases replete with oratory, e.g., his sermon on the Areopagus; and the oratorical element generally enters largely into Scripture. Lactantius, the Christian Cicero, regretted that there were so few trained preachers (Inst. Div., V, c. i), and we know that St. Gregory of Nazianzus, as well as Sts. Chrysostom and Augustine, made use of rhetoric in preaching. The writer of this article thinks that there would be no room for difference of opinion if oratory were defined not according to the style that prevails in any particular period, but according to that which constitutes its very essence, viz. persuasiveness. And he thinks it will be found that the Fathers, in speaking against oratory in preaching, had in mind the false style that then prevailed. For instance, St. Gregory of Nazianzus censured the use in the pulpit of the eloquence and pronunciation of the theatre; but surely that was not to oppose real oratory. Also we know that many unhealthy excrescences had grown by this time around Greek oratory, and it was probably such imperfections that those who spoke against it had in mind. Who, for instance, can read Demetrius “On Style” without feeling how petty are many of the tricks of speech and figures that are there found? Many extravagances are indulged in, in the name of oratory, but true oratory, as the art of persuasion, can never be out of place in the pulpit.
P. A. BEECHER