festive sermon was twofold. It encouraged adoration of the saints by evoking admiration for their deeds and it inspired imitation of their virtues. This species of sermon was closely related to the funeral sermon, the aim of which was to praise the dead, console the bereaved and instruct the audience. Funeral sermons were idiosyncratic in the sense that they contained a biographical sketch of the deceased. Especially common among, but by no means restricted to, Lutherans in the central part of the empire, funeral sermons increasingly developed into unadulterated panegyric in the decades around 1700. Only nobles and wealthy burghers could afford the splendid printed sermons which preachers vied among each other to produce. Adorned with sumptuous portraits, Hebrew and Greek types, and even funeral music, sermons in folio or quarto format served as epitaphs to the dead, as extravagant portable gravestones commissioned in limited editions by the family. Critics, such as the Rostock theologian Heinrich Miiller (1631-75) who discarded Leichpredigten as Leichtepredigten (funeral preaching as slight or trifling preaching) censured a genre increasingly given to eulogizing the deceased rather than encouraging the living.12 Yet the fashion of printing sumptuous funeral sermons declined only after about 1750, partially in response to changing attitudes to death; among Catholics these sermons flowered, albeit less profusely, until well into the 1780s.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century, sermons focused on improving the moral condition ofthe congregation. They consequently tookinto account the various spheres of life, civilian, social and private; clergymen could now sermonize on philosophy, nature or the realms of politics, and economics. A 'nature sermon' on a tree, for example, might give thought to the selfless person who had planted it for the benefit of posterity.13 Pulpit oratory devoted to economics might treat subjects such as commercial fraud, parsimony, the utility of hygiene and the harmfulness of superstition to agriculture. Others addressed such topics as Frederik II, the Society of Jesus, political revolutions, the corruption of court life, shipping and press freedom. Sermons had, of course, long been utilized for political ends. Before the Revolution, the French clergy had been obliged to inform Sunday congregations about administrative and legal directives; since 1695, government notices were read from the pulpit towards the end of Mass. Neither Enlightened regimes nor revolutions changed the political function of the pulpit. In the Austrian Netherlands, Joseph II typically used the pulpit as a medium for disseminating the contents of imperial edicts and ordinances. It may be argued that sermons were (and are) political in yet another sense. As public statements, sermons are inherently political, in that they reflect presuppositions concerning the relations between religion,
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