great stylist and master orator was Bossuet, who was typically extolled as 'the French Demosthenes'. Improvising at court or in the Parisian churches, Bossuet riveted audiences through the fervour, originality, clarity, and liveliness of his sermons on such subjects as Providence, church unity and the obligations of the King of France. Together with Bourdaloue and Massillon, Bossuet belonged to a French court triumvirate whose superb mastery of oratorical techniques would influence subsequent generations within and beyond France. Each had his own style. Whilst Bossuet captured his audience through profound insights and powerful rhetoric, the Jesuit Louis Bourdaloue (16321704) did so through logic and argument. Dubbed 'the king of preachers and preacher of kings', this dedicated moralist did not shrink from castigating ladies and courtiers given, respectively, to idleness and ambition. Jean Baptist Massillon (1663-1742), no less committed to moralizing, probed the heart and the passions, and possessed much psychological insight. The French Protestant sermon, too, flowered in the decades around 1700: a disproportionately large number of Huguenot or Walloon preachers throughout Europe were famed for their oratorical prowess. Sermonizers such as Jean Claude (1619-87) in France, Jacques Saurin (1677-1730) in the Dutch Republic, and Isaac Beau-sobre (1659-1738) in Berlin developed biblical themes 'synthetically', avoiding speculation and abstraction but emphasizing moral edification. Claude's Traité de la composition d'un sermon (1688) was as widely read in Europe as it was brief and to the point.
Around the turn of the seventeenth century, German Pietists were arguing that the aim of a sermon, rather than to moralize, was to convert, to internalize the faith and make it manifest in daily life. Its vocabulary inspired by the Song of Songs, the Pietist sermon introduced a simpler, more biblical and more practical alternative to what it regarded as the abstruse formalism, superfluous ornamentation and sterile polemicism of the reigning 'orthodox' style. The Lutheran bishop Eric Pontoppidan (1698-1764) was one among many who disseminated such ideas - in his case in Denmark. After about 1750, Spanish Jansenists, inspired especially by Bourdaloue, similarly took the lead in reforming the sermon.21 The combined influence of Pietism and Jansenism, English and French models, literary and aesthetic developments and the steady growth of an informed, articulate and polite public, gradually led to widespread criticism of the confessional sermon. Sermons, so the reformers claimed, were not meant to affirm or confirm the authoritarian, confessional order of society, but to transfer practical information, transform behaviour and impress upon listeners and readers simple beliefs and moral knowledge. Whilst evangelicals stressed individual choice and personal experience, reformers in all European
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