Following Along in the Seventeenth Century

‘Before every Lesson the minister is directed to give notice to the people what chapter he reads, by saying, Here beginneth such a chapter, or verse of such a chapter, of such a book: that so the people, is they have their Bibles with them, may, by looking over them, be the more attentive’ (Charles Wheatly, A Rational Illustration of the Harmony and Usefulness of the Book of Common Prayer (Oxford, 1710), 130).

Despite speech being primary, by 1710 some people believed in hearing and reading at the same time. I must concede at least this vis-à-vis James Jordan on the important difference (important especially for the second commandment of the Decalogue) between the ear and the eye. Of course, the dead can be wrong as well as the living: if the Bible proclaims a truth, it kills the word of mortal men as it kills the protests of expediency, rules of deliberative rhetoric be damned.

We can’t see at night, but we can still hear. Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.


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