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The biographer of Toplady, that eminent and devoted minister in the English Established Church, remarks of his habits as a preacher: “ Whether he preached extempore, or from notes, his sermons were always the fruit of his own labor. He scorned to soar on borrowed feathers. He knew that “the Lord was against the prophet that stole his words every one from his neighbor.' He then gives an anecdote, which takes us behind the English pulpit, and discloses certain humiliating habits of the English clergy. Toplady, on one occasion, had purchased of a London tradesman some books. “ After that business was over,” he says, “ Mr. Osborne took me to the farthest end of his long shop, and in a low voice said thus: “Sir, you will soon be ordained. I suppose you have not laid in a very great stock of sermons. I can supply you with as many sets as you please ; all originals; very excellent ones; and they will come for a trifle.' My answer was : 'I certainly shall never be a customer to you in that way ; for I am of opinion, that the man who cannot, or will not, make his own sermons, is quite unfit to wear the gown. How could you think of my buying ready-made sermons ?' His answer shocked me: “Nay, young gentleman ; do not be surprised at my offering you ready-made sermons ; for I assure you, I have sold ready-made sermons to many a bishop, in my time!' "Good Mr. Osborne,' replied Toplady, “if you have any concern for the credit of the Church of England, never tell this news to any body else, from henceforward for ever.'”

In his collection of " Incidents, Anecdotes, etc.," Toplady gives another case. “Mr. Heard very lately heard Dr. MVOL. III.





preach. Afterwards, the Doctor asked him how he liked his sermon. Like it ?' said Mr. Heard ; 'why, sir, I have liked and admired it these twenty years!' The Doctor stared. Upon that shelf,' added Mr. Heard, you will find it, verbatim. Mr. Boehm was an excellent preacher.'Toplady adds : “My friend Heard is a bookseller; and booksellers are sometimes dangerous hearers, when a preacher deals in borrowed sermons.”

It has been related of Dr. South, that he once attended church where he heard one of his own sermons preached, by a clergyman who was a stranger to him. After sermon was closed, he joined company with the preacher, and inquired of him, how long time it took him to prepare that sermon. The preacher replied, “somewhere about two days.” “Well, sir," said South," that sermon cost mE the labor of a whole week!”

An attendant upon divine service in one of the English Churches, who, it would seem, was well read in sermons of standard preachers, perceived that the preacher was delivering a discourse made up of uncredited passages from different preach

At length, on hearing a certain passage, he said, in an audible and forcible whisper, “ That is from South.” Hearing another, he said, “That is from Tillotson;" and thus he also asserted the theft of other passages, as they occurred in delivery. The preacher, disconcerted by such betrayments of his plagiarisms, having a mind to stop the knowing and troublesome hearer “by authority,” finally said to him : “Fellow, if you do not cease your disturbance of the services, I will order the sexton to take you in charge.” “That,” replied the hearer, with imperturbable

, and provoking gravity, that is his own!”

Addison, in one of his numbers of the Spectator, introduces his friend Sir Roger de Coverly, as describing his chaplain, a goodnatured and sociable man, who had been with him thirty years ; to whom, says he, “ on his first settling with me, I made a present of all the good sermons which have been printed in English ; and only begged him that, every Sunday, he would pronounce one of them in the pulpit.” “ Accordingly,” says Sir Roger,

” “ he has digested them into such a series that they follow one another naturally, and make a continued system of practical divinity.” While Sir Roger is giving this account, up comes the parson himself; and on inquiry of him who is to preach to-morrow, he very naively replies : “ The bishop of St. Asaph in the morning,


and Dr. South in the afternoon.” Addison closes the paragraph with this remark, which is sufficiently caustic as well as graphic: “A sermon repeated after this manner, is like the composition of a poet in the mouth of a graceful actor.” In another paper, manifestly with reference to this same indolent and dishonest practice, he introduces a correspondent as complaining of a young preacher, who, in the delivery, barbarously murdered a sermon of Tillotson on evil speaking.

In presumptive proof of the commonness of the habit of preaching other men's sermons, in the English Established Church, may be mentioned the fact, that on the covers of the London Christian Observer, which came to this country several years since, appeared a bookseller's advertisement of sermons engraved to resemble manuscript, for pulpit use.

That such a practice should be attested, as notorious and common, by an advertisement upon

the covers of the most evangelical periodical, at that time, in the Church of England, speaks a condition of things in the Eng. lish pulpit which is exceedingly strange. It would be quite easy to conceive of very embarrassing occurrences among English clergymen furnished with sets of engraved sermons from the same bookseller's shop, and preaching by exchange, in each other's pulpits. If their audiences have such habits of attentive hearing of sermons as exist in our New England congregations, it would seem that the clerical character for intellectual independence and for literary honesty, must be at a “heavy discount among

them. It is believed that the standard of clerical morals, on this subject, in our own country, is better than appears abroad. A New England minister cannot once do such an act as to preach another minister's sermon, without forfeiting his character, in the eyes of good men; and coming to a speedy end of his influence as a preacher, if not to the end of his ministry among a people. Such instances, however, have occurred ; and other forms of pulpit plagiarism not quite so bald and palpable, demand that the voice of earnest and solemn protestation be lifted against it.

It was a notorious fact, in relation to some of the evangelists of the Finney school, so popular a few years since, that they preached, though in an unwritten form, and as if extemporaneously, the substance of many of the discourses of their leader. The President of one of our New England Colleges relates, that,


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after having heard Mr. Finney preach several sermons in New York city, he attended upon the preaching of a certain notorious evangelist, who was “conducting a protracted meeting” in the vicinity of his college. He stated that so closely did the evangelist recite several of the sermons of Finney, that while listening to one sentence, he could often anticipate the next; and could foretell also what illustrations he would use of a given remark or topic, from having heard the same illustration of the same idea by Mr. Finney. Rev. Dr. Nettleton, several years since, preached, in some southern pulpit, one of his own sermons, which he had once loaned for perusal; and after the close of his service was informed, to his surprise, that a preacher who had preceded him but a short time before in the same pulpit, had preached the same sermon. At another time, while in a southern city, and attending an evening service, Dr. Nettleton heard one of his own sermons delivered from the pulpit by a stranger. A New Eng. land preacher, several years since, going to occupy, for a few Sabbaths, a pulpit in the city of New York, on the day of his arrival in the city, was visited by a young preacher who had preceded him in the same pulpit, (and to whom he had, a few weeks before, loaned one of his sermons for perusal,) and was earnestly requested not to preach that particular sermon. The young preacher frankly acknowledged that he had made such a use of the sermon, in preaching there himself, as would subject him to great mortification, if the discourse to which he had been indebted should be delivered by its real author. Another of the most

. powerful preachers in our country, recently deceased, has stated that he once heard one of his own discourses preached, by a minister, not probably aware of his presence, in an evening congregation. At a meeting of a body of ministers and messengers of the churches, in one of our New England districts, several years since, a preacher, -- called upon to officiate in the absence of the one appointed, - delivered, as a sermon, the substance of an article which had been published in a religious magazine ; and which, in his absence, had once been read by one of his brethren, before the very association to which he belonged, for the purposes of criticism and revision. The publication of volumes of sermons, selected from among the manuscripts of deceased clergymen, in New England, has, in two instances, altogether surprising, disclosed the fact of their use of the published writings of other preachers; in series of sentences, and in one instance, -ascertained subsequently by the compiler of the volume, to his great mortification, - of the whole, or nearly the whole, of a sermon. A volume of the sermons of a preacher, who died many years since, was actually carried through the press ; but before being offered for sale, it was discovered that the author of the sermons had made such uses of the published writings of other preachers, as to demand its entire suppression, and it was never distributed to the subscribers, nor offered for sale. A sermon from the pen of Rev. Dr. Skinner, of New York, several years since published in the National Preacher, and containing a very bad typographical error, was preached by another man. A gentleman present, who had read the sermon, and noticed the typographical error, watched the progress of the delivery; and, to his surprise, found that the preacher adhered so closely to the printed sermon as to deliver the blunder as faithfully as any other part of the discourse.

Cases such as these shew most clearly the great danger that this guilty and disgraceful practice may become common in the American pulpit, as well as elsewhere. It is time that the voice of earnest and solemn protestation be lifted ; and that without respect of persons, or denominations, or sections of country.

Apart, however, from all incidental examples on this humiliating subject, it is necessary to look at the fact, that the clerical use of the labors of other men has been countenanced, and has received a kind of sanction, from a description of “Helps," so called; which have been favorably noticed by religious journalists in Great Britain. These “ Helps” being in the English language, and thus accessible by the great body of American preachers, have apparently begun to exert some influence on this side the Atlantic, as well as the other, and need to be set in their proper light, as affording temptations among us to indolence and to clerical dishonesty. A distinguished preacher, in the English Established Church, not long since residing at one of the principal Universities, published, for the help of preachers in the work of composing sermons, six hundred “ skeletons,” under the title “ Horæ Homileticæ;" confessedly offered as the bases of sermons to be prepared and delivered by other ministers.

That such a class of books should be countenanced by the periodical press, is matter for as much surprise as that they should be prepared for the ministerial profession by ministers. The work VOL. III.



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