Reference > Cambridge History > Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton > The English Pulpit from Fisher to Donne > Literary Preaching: Jewel, Sandys; Hooker
  The second generation of Reformation Preachers: Lever, Bradford and Gilpin “The Silver-tongued preacher”  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

XII. The English Pulpit from Fisher to Donne.

§ 7. Literary Preaching: Jewel, Sandys; Hooker.


In the more settled times of Elizabeth’s reign, there begin to appear sermons of a different order. Hitherto, the typical vernacular sermon has been a popular harangue. If it is to make a hit, it must aim low. A sermon at Paul’s cross before a demonstrative crowd must use the methods of the hustings rather than of the lecture-room. But, since the reformation began, a generation had grown up which was habituated to theological controversy, and was interested in its technicalities. Such men as Jewel, Hooker, Perkins and Rainolds address their appeal, with what success they may, to the best intelligence in the country. Tirades and appeals to prejudice must make way for arguments and appeals to antiquity. The fathers and doctors are cited, and doctrinal statements are minutely analysed and discussed. The effects of this change on literature are both favourable and unfavourable. Undoubtedly, the progress of controversy taught men to express themselves clearly upon difficult topics. It may occasion surprise that men like Jewel and Sandys should have so soon acquired facility of expression. Their style may lack distinction or charm, but at least it is adequate. Latimer can keep straight with his short sentences and concrete themes. Elizabethan preachers have to grapple with deep points of theology, and yet can present them lucidly and methodically, without losing their way in their more involved sentences. On the other hand, the very weight of the matter, its technical character and its array of authorities, are unfavourable to the production of an attractive prose-style. There is little room for grace or fancy in these learned and scholastic performances. Still, it is much that they should have worked out for themselves the means of expressing their thought in perfectly clear and unmannered English. It is a pleasure, for instance, to read anything which says what it means so exactly and so easily as does Jewel’s famous Challenge sermon. Sandys was induced at the close of his life to write out for publication twenty-two of his sermons. The literary ability which distinguished his sons is not absent from the father’s writing. His sentences are well-built, with a strict avoidance of any mannerism or exaggeration. There is never any excess of ornament, nor any lapse from good taste, except when the Roman controversy proves too much for him. His frequent quotations from St. Bernard and St. Chrysostom, from Horace and Terence, indicate the newer style of literary preaching.   17
  The friendship of Sandys and Jewel, who were once “companions at bed and board in Germany,” had important consequences for a greater than either, Richard Hooker. Jewel, himself a Devonshire man, befriended the promising Exeter boy, and sent him to his old college of Corpus Christi at Oxford, where another Devonian and famous preacher, John Rainolds, was his tutor. Jewel died when Hooker was in his nineteenth year, but he had already commended him to the notice of bishop Sandys, who sent his son Edwin to be under Hooker’s tuition, and, afterwards, furthered his promotion to the mastership of the Temple. There is no need to deal in detail with Hooker’s sermons, because they reflect the same great qualities, both in thought and expression, which have been already discussed in another volume of the present work. 1  But no account of Elizabethan preachers would be complete without some mention of the only name among them which has an assured place in the first rank Hooker published none of his sermons; as Izaak Walton says, it was only the felix error of Travers’s opposition which caused him to write out for private circulation some of the sermons to which the Reader had taken exception. Though Hooker’s fame depends chiefly on his Ecclesiastical Polity, we should have been immeasurably the poorer for the loss of his sermons on the certainty of faith, justification and the nature of pride, which have more permanent value than any sermons of the reign. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote of the first:
I can remember no other discourse, that sinks into and draws up comfort from the depths of our being below our own distinct consciousness, with the clearness and godly loving-kindness of this truly evangelica and God-to-be-thanked-for sermon;
and he declared that one paragraph should be written in letters of gold. This testimony is valuable as showing that, in his sermons, Hooker could appeal to the feeling and the conscience, as successfully as in his book he appealed to the reason.
  18
  There is yet a further service which Hooker rendered to the contemporary pulpit. Here, as in his book, he set the tone of a controversialist who was not content to be barely just to an opponent but sought to find common ground with him. Jewel, for instance, though he abandons the scurrility of earlier protestant champions, fights hard to maintain the scandal of pope Joan and even takes as an axiom, “Let us remember to do the contrary” of what those before the reformation had done. The puritan divine Edward Dering could say outright, “Now we know the Pope to be anti-christ, and his prayers to be evill”; and similar bitterness mars the sermons of Rainolds. While such language was still prevalent, Hooker had the courage and the breadth of mind to assert that “the Church of Rome is a true Church of Christ, and a sanctified Church.” He reverenced truth, as he conceived it, wherever he found it. This attitude in itself could not fail to affect the methods of the pulpit. When Hooker set himself to persuade, and not to denounce or “frighten men into piety,” it led him, as his biographer acutely observed, to use another kind of rhetoric.   19

Note 1. See Vol. III., pp. 460 ff. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  The second generation of Reformation Preachers: Lever, Bradford and Gilpin “The Silver-tongued preacher”  
 
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