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The Lectures contained in this Volume were delivered on Sunday afternoons in St. James's Chapel, during the season of 1872. Others, on Blake, Shelley, Keats and Byron, delivered in 1873, will be published, I hope, before the close of this year. The thing was an experiment. I began it in May 1871, when I asked the Rev. J. M. Capes to deliver a course of lectures for me, which should not take the form of sermons, but, on the contrary, should avoid it. He chose as his subject the Inner Life of the Romish Church, and afterwards the Relation of Music to Religion. When he had finished his lectures on these subjects, which were as well attended as they eminently deserved to be, I began another course on Theology in the English Poets, which I have continue to the present time. Since I began to carry out the experiment in 1871, the lectures on week-days in St. Paul's have been established, and in St. James's Church, Piccadilly, discourses have been preached on a few Sunday afternoons on such subjects as the Drama and the Press, by eminent clergymen. I believe if a similar effort could be made in many of the London churches in the Sunday afternoons, that much good might be done. It would give variety to clerical work on Sunday, and much knowledge that now remains only as latent force among the clergy might be made dynamic, if I may borrow a term from science. If rectors of large churches would ask clergymen who know any subject of the day well to lecture on its religious aspect in the afternoon, and give them half the offertory, if needful, for their trouble, they would please themselves, enlighten their congregations, and fill their churches. And they would assist the cause of religion among that large number of persons who do not go to church, and who think that Christianity has nothing to do with Politics, Art, Literature or Science.
When I made this experiment, I had long desired to bring the pulpit on Sunday to bear on subjects other than those commonly called religious, and to rub out the sharp lines drawn by that false distinction of sacred and profane. If what I believed were true, and God in Christ had sanctified all human life; if every sphere of Man's thought and actiòn was in idea, and ought to be in fact, a channel through which God thought and God actedthen there was no subject which did not in the end run up into Theology, which might not in the end be made religious. I wished then to claim as belonging to the province of the Christian ministry, political, historical, scientific, and artistic work, in their connexion with Theology; and to an extent greater than I had hoped for, the effort, so far as I have carried it, has succeeded. The blame of many accustomed to hear nothing but sermons from the pulpit has been wholly outweighed in my mind by the fact of the attendance of many persons who were before uninterested in religious subjects at all. And then, neither the blame nor the praise of the present is any proof of the goodness or badness of a thing.
The Poets themselves formed the only text book I have used, but in the two first lectures, when treating of the growth of the Poetry of Man and of Nature, I have had much help from an admirable Essay of Mr. F. Palgrave's, which appeared in the “ Quarterly Review" of July, 1862.
STOPFORD A. BROOKF. MANCHESTER SQUARE,
London, April, 1874.