Home  »  Volume IV: English PROSE AND POETRY SIR THOMAS NORTH TO MICHAEL DRAYTON  »  § 8. “The Silver-tongued preacher”

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

§ 8. “The Silver-tongued preacher”

Probably Henry Smith, alone among Elizabethan preachers, shares with Hooker the distinction of finding modern readers. Hooker’s sermons were as well suited to the learned auditory of the Temple as Smith’s were to the popular congregation of St. Clement Danes. But “the silver-tongued preacher” knew that “to preach simply is not to preach rudely, nor unlearnedly, nor confusedly.” He had no patience with the drones who “by their slubbering of the word (for want of study and meditation) do make men think that there is no more wisdom in the word of God than they shew out of it.” We find ourselves in a different atmosphere from that of the controversial sermon, and hear instead plain moral duties set out with homely illustrations and playful turns: “The devil is afraid that one sermon will convert us, and we are not moved with twenty; so the devil thinketh better of us than we are.” Some of his sermons, printed during his life-time, are described on the title-page as “taken by characterie and after examined.” Whether in separate or in collected form, no sermons of the age were more frequently printed.