Church Engine Optimisation

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Sometimes it’s the peculiar sound of a Sermon against clipping (1694) that gives you a sense that either the past is a foreign country or at any rate other people’s doctrinal disputes are. At other times it’s the glut of peroration laced with occasional malice, as though every possible angle of the content of the text and wounded vitriol of the author had to be crammed into the words of the title in order to capture the popular attention:

A late printed sermon against false prophets: vindicated by letter, from the causeless aspersions of Mr. Francis Cheynell. / By Jasper Mayne, D.D. the mis-understood author of it.
Printed in the yeare, M DC XLVII.
The non-conformist’s champion his challenge accepted; or, An answer to Mr. Baxter’s Petition for peace, written long since, but now first published, upon his repeated provocations and importune clamors, that it was never answered. Whereunto is prefixed an epistle to Mr. Baxter; with some remarks upon his Holy Common-wealth, upon his sermon to the House of Commons, upon his non-conformists plea for peace, and upon his answer to Dr. Stillingfleet. By Ri. Hooke, D.D. Vicar of Halyfax.
London: printed for Tho. Flesher, at the Angel and Crown, in St. Paul’s Church-yard, Anno Dom. 1682.
A Birchen rod for Dr. Birch, or, Some animadversions upon his sermon preached before the Honourable the House of Commons, at St. Margaret’s Westminster, January 30, 1694: in a letter to Sir T.D. and Mr. H.
The ouerthrovv of the Protestants pulpit-Babels: conuincing their preachers of lying & rayling, to make the Church of Rome seeme mysticall Babell. Particularly confuting VV. Crashawes Sermon at the Crosse, printed as the patterne to iustify the rest. VVith a preface to the gentlemen of the Innes of Court, shewing what vse may be made of this treatise. Togeather with a discouery of M. Crashawes spirit: and an answere to his Iesuites ghospell. By I.R. student in diuinity.
Imprinted, anno M.DC.XII.
Vindiciæ fœderis, or, A vindication of the interest that the children of believers as such have in the covenant of grace with their parents under the Gospel-dispensation: being the substance of two sermons, with additions preached to a congregation in Wapping: also some seasonable reflections upon various unsound and cruel passages taken forth of two furious books of Mr. H. Collins printed against infant-baptism / by Fran. Mence.
London: Printed for the author and are to be sold by John Lawrence, Mary Gurnel, and William Wingod, 1694.

Amidst all this Counterpoyson (1608) and reflections on The cabinet of Hell unlocked, or, The late grand conspiracy emblazon’d (1696), it’s good to see a title that merely explains the intended audience in exhaustive detail:

The victorious stroke for Old England: All preachers make all hearers one man against her enemies, and down Jericho: explain’d and enforc’d in several remarkable discourses, occasion’d by a case, interesting every man in Britain, of a preacher in London, here fully clear’d and vindicated, and the rights of the country concisely demonstrated: necessary to be perus’d, not only by all preachers, but magistrates, jury-men, lawyers, evidences, political writers, scholars, and all gentlemen and ladies, who would form an exact idea of what is strictly meant by writings or speaking for or against the government of a free nation: to which is prefixed, a pathetic short address to jury-men.
London: Printed for Primate Reason, Esq;, 1748.

My personal favourite of those I’ve seen is this one, though, largely for the imprint (though admittedly Primate Reason is hard to beat). You could tell it was going to be one of those years...

The storming of Antichrist, in his two last and strongest garrisons; of compulsion of conscience, and infants babptisme [sic]. Wherein is set down a way and manner for cburch [sic] constitution; together with markes to know right constituted churches, from all other societies in the world. Also the cruelty inequality and injustice of compulsion for conscience, by 29. arguments is opened; with an answer to 26. objections brought for the same. Also 12. arguments against the baptizing of infants; with an answer to 26. objections brought for the same. Wherein is displayed to the view of all, from the testimonies of Scriptures, Fathers, councels; the mischiefs, uncertainties, novelties, and absudities [sic] that do attend the same. Wherein is answered the most valid arguments brought by St. Martiall, in his sermon preached in the Abbey Church at Westminister, for the defence hereof. With an answer to Mr. Blake his arguments, in his book cald Birth-priviledge; and to the arguments of divers others. As also a catechisme, wherein is cleerely opened the doctrine of baptisme, together with a resolution of divers questions and cases of conscience, about baptisme. Written by Ch. Blackwood, out of his earnest desire he hath to a thorow reformation, having formerly seen the mischiefs of half reformations.
Printed Anno 1644. Being one of those years, wherein Antichrist threatned the storming of the churches.

What can one say...?

The usefulness of preaching, and the reasons why men are not more edified by it. : A sermon preached at the triennial visitation of the Right Reverend father in God Jonathan Lord Bishop of Winchester, held at Andover, Sept. 10. 1717. By Richard Eyre, M.A. rector of Burghcleer in Hamphire, and canon residentiary of the Cathedral Church of Sarum. Publish’d by his lordship’s command, and at the request of the clergy.
London: Printed for Jonah Bowyer, at the Rose in Ludgate-street, 1717.

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