Thus, for much of the period, elaborate and heavily structured sermons, modelled after seventeenth-century examples, were by far the more common. Calvinist sermons were generally analytic, devoting much space to the explanation of individual words and to controversy. Texts were carefully divided into divisions and subdivisions, generals and particulars, and numerous heads, points, doctrines, uses and improvements, with due attention paid to the quid, the quale and the quantum. These sermons appear arbitrary in the sense that virtually any biblical verse was liable to be employed in substantiating any line of reasoning or embellishing any theme. In early eighteenth-century Lutheran circles, preachers commonly used concordances to plunder the Scriptures, making reference to or discussing any biblical passage even remotely related to a particular topic, or drawing attention to similar words in different places in the Bible. Catholic sermons could be no less byzantine.
The point is that to the confessional preachers as well as, presumably, a large part of their audiences the contents of the Bible were as self-evident as their confessional interpretations were authoritative. If, as critics point out, the fear of hell evoked from (especially Catholic) pulpits braced existing clericalism, it responded also to common beliefs and assumptions.16 In pillaging the Bible as a storehouse of divine utterances and in appealing to traditions of scholarship, preachers were believed to show due respect and add lustre to the Christian tradition. This is not to say that they were fastidious in their display of learning. The type pages of confessional sermons are peppered indiscriminately with words and phrases in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin; renowned authorities ranging from Maimonides to Grotius were commonly cited in the margins and the footnotes, but so were writers of trifling distinction. Catholic sermons of the 'Baroque' variety similarly took truths of faith for granted. They made use of biblical texts, not necessarily to explain them, but to develop moral points. A biblical text or a Sunday or feast-day pericope was often merely used as an opportunity to elaborate on or embellish a particular theme. The festive sermon functioned as ritual, as part of a liturgy, as one ornament among others; the popular play with words was principally intended to contribute to the glory of the saint whose feast-day was celebrated. There is much to say, then, for underscoring the similarity between the Catholic Baroque sermon and the Protestant analytic sermon, despite the Tridentine predilection for a theology of the Sacrament and the Reformation emphasis on a theology of the Word. Both shared a love for metaphor. Where a Bavarian Jesuit preached, in the Passion Week, on a winepress yielding blood, a Lutheran elaborated on the Geistliche Olkammer. A Catholic preacher might strike at the walls of Jericho
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