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The members of the Church of England justly boast of their Liturgy, and affirm with truth that no Service has a greater tendency to answer the purposes of public worship. It is however certain, that this tendency is very much strengthened by means of a good delivery. But that our admirable Ritual is not thus enforced so frequently as it ought, is a complaint which is heard even among the sincere and zealous friends of the Established Church; and it is heard so often, that the justice of it cannot be doubted. It may therefore be useful to suggest to the candidates for the Sacred Office, as well as to those who have been recently admitted into it, some of the causes to which the imputed defect may be reasonably ascribed. Thus cautioned, they may be induced to pay more particular attention to the manner of officiating; so that they may individually vindicate the profession from reproach, and, through the divine blessing upon their ministry, may powerfully promote the interests of true religion.
I. An inefficient manner of delivering the Church-Service frequently originates in the opinions which many Clergymen entertain on the subject of public reading. They conceive that, as every body can read, it is not necessary to take previous care to qualify themselves. for the effective discharge of this part of their official duties. They themselves perfectly understand what they read; but they are little aware, that to make the congregation, especially if it be numerous, hear and understand, is a task of considerable difficulty. Graceful and impressive reading is an accomplishment, which cannot be attained without submitting to the methods by which superiority is usually acquired in any of the arts or sciences. It is true indeed, that some persons are better gifted than others for gaining excellence; and with regard to reading, some naturally possess so much ease of utterance, so harmonious a voice, so correct an ear, that it seems as if they could not help reading well. But after allowing a few exceptions, it is absolutely certain, that, in general, instruction, study, and practice are indispensably requisite in acquiring an elegant and impressive delivery. It is likewise important to be remembered, that this accomplishment can generally be gained only in the early part of life, whilst the ear is
quick in perceiving, and the voice is capable of adopting, any suggested variations of tone.
s II. Another erroneous notion frequently prevails, that seriousness and piety are alone wanting; and that if a Clergyman is earnest in the discharge of his duty, he cannot fail to be an impressive reader of the Church-Service. A serious and solemn manner is certainly indispensable ; but when it is applied, with little meaning and with no variation, to a Service so varied in its subjects, the congregation may indeed be fully convinced of the piety of the Minister, but the monotonous solemnity of tones will inevitably prevent emotion, deaden attention, and produce drowsiness. And even if this heaviness of manner be avoided, still it sometimes happens, that, either through defect of early instruction, or entire inattention to the subject, a Clergyman, though possessing undoubted piety and great talents, may have acquired, in his mode of reading the Service, such a peculiarity, as not unfrequently excites the smiles of the giddy and thoughtless part of the congregation, and causes painful regret in the minds of the serious and devout.
III. The fear of being thought affected or theatrical, or of assuming an appearance of devo
tion without feeling the reality, must be mentioned as another cause which tends to produce inefficient readers. But though every thing that savours of affectation or hypocrisy is highly disgusting, still the dull and feeble, or hurried and irreverent manner is not less injurious in its effects upon the hearers. If in the one case, they are disgusted with the minister, in the other they become wearied with the Service.
IV. Another cause why an indifferent manner of reading is prevalent in the Church, may be found in the difficulty of retaining a good manner, in consequence of the constant repetition of the same forms. To repeat the same words over and over again, without insensibly falling into some improprieties,—without acquiring peculiar tones, which convey either no meaning at all, or a wrong meaning, requires constant and close attention. Hence it may be generally noticed, that those parts of the Service are recited best, which are recited least frequently; hence the Lessons are commonly better read, and the Lord's Prayer worse read, than any other part; and hence the number of Preachers possessing a good delivery will be found to be much greater, than that of graceful and impressive Readers.
Indeed, such is the effect of frequently repeating the same words, that even the best readers need the utmost watchfulness, lest, in the course of years, they fall into strange peculiarities and improprieties : and happy is the man who has friends, possessing the kindness, as well as the judgment, to point out these defects as they arise. To counteract the ill consequences résulting from the repetition of the same Service, Dr. Paley wisely tells us, that devotion must be the remedy; and this remedy, it may be added, is as needful for the minister as for the congregation.—Such are some of the causes, why an indifferent style of reading is prevalent in the Church.
1. On the other hand, the efficacy of good reading, in exciting the serious and devout feelings of the congregation, is exceedingly great. The Service assumes, as it were, a new character. The Lessons in particular, and more especially the Epistles and Gospels, when read with judgment and feeling, immediately arrest the attention of the hearers, and manifest the peculiar power of the Holy Scriptures to convince the understanding and penetrate the heart. Hence arises a strong encouragement to the Clergyman who possesses only moderate talents and attainments, but who is sincerely desirous