to instruct and motivate a congregation, and frequently but not invariably centred on the exegesis, interpretation, and application of a biblical text. Such a discourse might take on the form of a thorough exposition of doctrine, a prolonged biblical commentary, or a brief, edifying address or 'homily'.
In both the Protestant and Catholic Reformations, sermons were regarded as requisite to internalizing the faith. Tridentine reforms had been implemented by the newly established orders of the sixteenth century, among which the Jesuits in particular remained significant as preachers, at least until the dissolution of the order in 1773. The seventeenth century also produced a number of highly active preaching congregations, such as the Capuchins and the French Lazarists or Vincentians, founded specifically for the purpose of preaching missions to the poor in the countryside. Missionary priests specialized in sermonizing, and were capable of adapting their sermons to wholly different types of public. One of the great French evan-gelizers of the period, Jacques Bridaine (1701-67), held 256 missions in towns and villages throughout France, gathering the slothful townspeople by walking ostentatiously through the streets, loudly ringing a bell.6 Despite this prominent role of the religious orders, the period as a whole witnessed a relative shift in overall sermon production from the regular to the secular clergy.
The self-image of the preaching clergy remained largely undented, despite the anticlericalism of Pietist and Enlightenment critics. Post-Tridentine homiletic guidelines, usually written by Jesuits, had enlarged on the preacher's sense of self. They tended to emphasize the disconcerting void between the elevated deity and the lowly preacher. The latter acted as an emissary of the Lord -as an angel, according to some - bringing the message of salvation to earthly vales of lamentation. To be able to mediate between God and the audience, the high office ofpreacher required, above all, humility, obedience, and a sense of unworthiness.7 Much emphasis was put on the preacher's vocation, piety, and humility: homiletic reforms in the confessional period thus involved the sermonizers more than they did the hearers. Metaphorical self-representations of the preacher abounded among both Protestants and Catholics; the more colourful included the hawker of comestibles (serving milk to beginners and strong meat to the advanced), the innkeeper supervising a Christian banquet and the physician who ministers spiritual cures to ailing patients.
Sermons frequently had a highly structured format, with complex divisions and subdivisions. In the course of the period, however, less artificial arrangements became more common. Sermons were increasingly informed
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