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A PREACHER of righteousness need not always put the thread of his discourse through the eye of a text of Scripture.

There are sermons in stones—the only difficulty is to get them out. As the artistic eye, looking at mere stains and scratches on a whitewashed wall, will discern in them the outlines of suggestive figures, so the simplest forms of speech will yield far-reaching, many-sided meanings to anyone who will take the trouble to consider them attentively.

You may see infinitude reflected in a dew-drop. As Schiller says, “Any way will take you to the ends of the earth.”

The interpretations put upon the familiar texts, on which these Sermons are based, may seem to be far-fetched, but that is of no moment if they are found to be well worth the carriage. The meaning of a text embraces all that may be seen through it -all that it may help you to discern.

To chain the understanding down to the limits of the literal sense, even of the divinest language, is the death of Revelation. “ The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.”

The intermingling of the elements of gravity and gaiety presented in the subject matter of these Sermons may, perhaps, appear to some to be a somewhat questionable experiment. But whatever may be thought of such a combination as a matter of art, it can scarcely be regarded as utterly “against the use of nature;” for how often do we see the face of “laughter, holding both his sides," reflecting “thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."

It is to be hoped that the established sermon style will sustain no serious harm by the application of it to Our First Acquaintances in Literature.

If any apology is needed for the publication of this little book, let it be found in its appearance among other “Fancy Work," as a contribution to a good

J. P. R.


November, 1878.




Little Jack Horner
Sat in a corner,
Eating his Christmas pie;

He put in his thumb

And pulled out a plum,
And said, 'What a good boy am I!'



T would serve no profitable purpose to discuss

the age or authorship of these immortal' lines. They were evidently written some time after Christianity had taken a firm hold of the heart and stomach of Old England.

They suggest a doubt as to the genuineness of much of the piety that has been professed, both in our own time and also in the days of our “pious Ancestors ;” and it is, therefore, necessary to examine the foundations of professions such as that made by Jack Horner. We shall notice in this rhyme


I. The person mentionedLittle Jack Horner.

Beyond the fact that he was little, we know little about Jack Horner. We may gather that he was an English boy—not Scotch or Irishfrom his English pet-name Jack, from his speech, and from the fact that he had a Christmas pie!

He was a son of Old Horner's—a chip of the old block; for, as we shall presently see, he had a natural aptitude for horn-blowing.

But what we have particularly to note is the fact that he was little, not only in body but in soul.

Now it is well known that little men have generally a very tall opinion of themselves. As a rule, this is noticeable in the bearing of men who are of small bodily dimensions. It is very difficult to get them to acknowledge their true height. They will stoop to save their hats, although they may not be within a foot of any danger of collision. They are ever liable to depreciation on account of their deficiency of bodily presence, and the constant struggle to assert themselves tends to beget in them a mounting disposition, which is not, in many cases, under subjection to such a worthy motive as that which led Zaccheus the Publican to climb

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