Friday, August 14, 2009

Plagiarizing Sermons Is Not New!


In my Personal Book Builder creation project, I am working on putting vol. 1 of Alexander Campbell’s Millennial Harbinger into Libronix format. As I was working  through the early issues, I smiled as I read the following excerpt that Campbell put in from the Religious Herald.  There is much-ado (appropriately) about plagiarizing sermons, since so many sermons are available on the internet.  Some websites even center their business model on selling sermons to preachers “for research”.  But these words from 1830 show that the practice is not new and was widespread enough even then to be criticized.

"IF we oppose reading sermons, and especially when they are borrowed or bought, shall we countenance the mere rehearsal of them--by worse than plagiarists! It must be a painful thing to an intelligent man to hear young men, without improvement in any department of learning or knowledge--unacquainted with the truths of Divine Revelation, uninformed on all subjects, repeat sermons full of rich thought, expressed in appropriate and eloquent language. It looks like the efforts of a giant put forth by an infant. It is as if we should see young scions in nurseries, borne down by a weight of mature fruit. The practice is now carried to a shameful extent--and it ought to be exposed; the practice of committing to memory short sermons composed by others, and delivering them, with the profession, a profession almost invariably implied in the first prayer, that they are extempore. We are not advocates for extemporaneous preaching; but we do object most solemnly against professing to do one thing, and doing another; and against doing what in its tendency leads to such pernicious consequences. We have ourselves heard eloquent sermons from young men who cannot spell correctly in two syllables; and who understand nothing, even of the structure of a common English sentence. Nay, worse; we have heard Greek and Chaldaic quoted by a preacher who did not know a noun from a verb in his own nor any language. We guard our young men against this growing evil. Some early opportunity shall be selected for giving our readers a review of some of these fine discourses. According to this plan the country may be supplied with spiritual guides, "manufactured," not, indeed, in what some have been pleased to call a "mill" but in a much more summary way."   (Campbell, A. Millennial Harbinger 1830 [p. 94])

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