Sunday 1 June 1662

(Lord’s day). At church in the morning. A stranger made a very good sermon. Dined at home, and Mr. Spong came to see me; so he and I sat down a little to sing some French psalms, and then comes Mr. Shepley and Mr. Moore, and so we to dinner, and after dinner to church again, where a Presbyter made a sad and long sermon, which vexed me, and so home, and so to walk on the leads, and supper and to prayers and bed.

25 Annotations

First Reading

Bradford  •  Link

What psalms would Spong & Pepys be liable to sing in French?

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"French psalms"
Le Seigneur est mon berger, rien ne saurait me manquer...

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Why one preacher might have "made a very good sermon"

One reason Pepys might have enjoyed sermons so much is that they may well have been very dramatic performances, like the style of so many sermons in many American black churches and many American Southern churches.

These preachers try (and often succeed) at appealing to the heart with powerful (often loud) voices, rising and falling in pitch, tone, loudness and any other way to make it impossible for the people in the pews to fall asleep. Arms wave, tears sometimes fall, hair becomes tussled, eyes bulge, spit may fly out. The language is often played with (even Saint Augustine had a lot of wordplay, puns and the like in his sermons, according to a biography by Garry Wills). And if you're a believer, the effect may not only be emotional but spiritual, enveloping you. Some of the most powerful oratory I've ever heard came from the few times I heard sermons in these churches, or speeches by people from these churches. Nowadays European tourists in New York will travel to black neighborhoods to hear these sermons.

Cultural traditions like these sermons can be preserved, often in remote rural areas, long after the society where they originated has dropped them. Some English ballads were preserved as living folk songs this way in the Applachains, and I think some words and pronunciations have been preserved this way as well.

Thomas Sowell, an American academic, recently wrote this article in the Wall Street Journal (reproduced on its OpinionJournal Web site), in which he said these sermons seem to be a preservation of what was once originally an English style. I respect Sowell enormously, although I make no claims here that he's correct in this, but here's a quote:

"The culture of the people who were called "rednecks" and "crackers" [...] had its own way of talking, not only in the pronunciation of particular words but also in a loud, dramatic style of oratory with vivid imagery, repetitive phrases and repetitive cadences.

"Although that style originated on the other side of the Atlantic in centuries past, it became for generations the style of both religious oratory and political oratory among Southern whites and among Southern blacks--not only in the South but in the Northern ghettos in which Southern blacks settled. It was a style used by Southern white politicians in the era of Jim Crow and later by black civil rights leaders fighting Jim Crow. Martin Luther King's famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 was a classic example of that style. [...]

"Although that culture eroded away over the generations, it did so at different rates in different places and among different people. It eroded away much faster in Britain than in the U.S. and somewhat faster among Southern whites than among Southern blacks ..."…

Australian Susan  •  Link

"a Presbyter made a sad and long sermon"
The Presbyterians are getting in what sermons and services they can before being forced to conform to the new prayer book or get out!
Sam definitely seems to be turning against the style of worship, including loing sermons, which he would have been used to inthe 1650s duringthe suspension of the Church of England, the Book of Common Prayer and services therein. I am unsure how much this would have been personal taste or how much going along with the culture of the new monarchical government again. Sam is a Government Officer and as such is expected to conform to the Established Church, using the BCP and attending only Churches where this Prayer Book would be used. I think a "very good sermon" to Sam now is one which is conforming - the sermon would have been relatively short and one that explained the Gospel of the day or other NT reading.
David's comments are fascinating, but I think they would refer to the style of preacher who was outlawed by the established church and left the shores of England in droves to be able to worship how they chose (including long oratorical sermons) in the New World. This independence of thought in worship contributed to the independence of spirit which lead the New Englanders, a century later, to rebel against "No taxation without representation" and demand independence.

Steve  •  Link

Be careful associating the term presbyter with Presbyterians. A presbyter is one of the 3 orders of the Church of England (aka Episcopalian or Anglican). The other two orders are bishops and deacons. IMHO, Pepys is referring to an Anglican priest here.

From The episcopal diocese of New York terminology guide.

The term "priest" is a contraction of the term "presbyter."

A presbyter. A cleric in one of the three orders (the other two being Bishops and Deacons)…

Mary  •  Link


OK, but also remember Milton's "New Presbyter is but old Priest, writ large." There is (or should be) a distinction.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Steve, sorry, but you are using current terminology - Sam *is* refering to those who support the Presbyterian system - i.e. an anti-Episcoplian stance. The church of Scotland which is the Established Church in that country is a presbyterian Church and the result of the reformers triumphing over the episcoplians. The established Church in England (the Church of England) is an Episcoplain one. The Monarch is Head of both Churches. This means s/he changes her religion when she goes over the border. If we are going to "blame" anyone for this state of affairs it is the current Charles's father, Charles I for his high-handed treatment of the Scots, who were forced into a rebellious position. England came near to this system around 1550 under Edward VI and might have gone the whole way tobecome a completely reformed Church along the lines of those in Geneva so admired by many English clerics. This was prevented by the untimely death of the teenage king, succeeded by his Catholic sister Mary who brought England within the fold of Rome again. Elizabeth succeeding Mary in 1558 trod a careful middle way. Reformers had their wishes fulfilled in the 1650's after the overthrow of the monarchy and the execution of the Head of the Church of England. The Established State Church is now in the 1660's recovering its power and control, but this is not to everyone's satisfation. [In modern times, there are those (Such as the Diocese of Sydney here in Australia) who believe that the reformation under Edward VI should be completed and that the Anglican Church is only partially what it should be. This is a minority vierw in the Anglican Church]

Australian Susan  •  Link

Another note on terminology
The prayer book which Sam would have used (brand new for him)uses the term "Minister" or "priest". The word "presbyter" is not used. I have an old prayer book here on my desk as I type this, but there are plenty of online sites which have the old prayer books to check this.

A. Hamilton  •  Link


Second time in a month Sam's used the term (recall the "dull, flat Presbiter" of May 11), both in the context of a sermon. I think Susan is on the right track in suggesting that it refers to clergy who haven't adapted to the new Restoration way of worship. These "Presbyters" may be Anglican, but perhaps in name only. OED remarks on the lack of clarity in the distinction between "priest" and "presbyter," and says both words come from the same root
(Gr. Presbuteros, L Presbyter) as Milton remarks in making an a unflattering comparison between the Anglican and the Presbyterian hierarchies. Here Pepys makes a distinction that is at least one of preaching style.

Harry  •  Link

Sermons may well have been very dramatic performances,

I remember at school we grealy enjoyed a sermon by an American preacher called something like Colonel O'Heck who played it for laughs as a preliminary to a valid moral conclusion. The punch line was "....and Samson laughed, and laughed, and laughed"; when he returned the following year the punch line was ".....and Jonas swam, and swam, and swam", all this in what to us was an incredible drawl. Unfortunately he was never asked to preach again.

Stolzi  •  Link

"French Psalms"

This would probably be the music of the French Huguenot Protestants.…

gives some sample pages of a French Psalter and some midi tunes, but I don't see any harmonies here for Sam and friend.

This page…

tells of Goudimel, who harmonized all the Psalms.

It sounds as if LeJeune's work on the Psalms…

would have been beyond two men singing together at home.

Finally, this page makes a very emotional statement about the appeal of the Psalms to the Huguenots:…

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"French psalms"
outstanding sites Stolzi, many thanks;
the one i cited is the psalm 22: " The Lord is my shepperd, I shall not want"
I remember it from my youth " ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem mean" and also from the movie "War of the Worlds"
the old one, base on H.G. Wells novel.
there is a new one coming up directed by Steven Spielberg

Robert Gertz  •  Link

No mention of Elisabeth joining in the psalm singing...One would think she could handle French psalms very well.

Pauline  •  Link

"psalm 22: - The Lord is my shepperd”
A. De Araujo, in *my youth* this was Psalm 23.

dirk  •  Link

Rev. Josselin's diary for today:

"A very hot dry season, yet god good in many mercies to me and mine, I had the act of uniformity sent me, the lord good in the word, he in mercy accept me"

Australian Susan  •  Link

Psalm Singing
Protestants in the 16th century mostly decided that music in church was not appropriate but made an exception for Psalms: so there was a great development of metrical settings of Psalms in the reformed churches. The Church of Scotland produced many wonderful settings of Psalms - collectively known as the Scottish Psalter and many have become well known hymn tunes such as Crimond for Psalm 23 (or 22 if your are Catholic or Orthodox!) and the Old Hundreth for the hymn 'All people that on earth do dwell' (based on Ps. 100)(or 99). As someone annotated on this site last year, the very first book published in the fledgling colony of New England was a book of metrical Psalms.(1640s)Wonderful sites about the Huguenot Psalms, Stolzi.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Has anyone else listened to the Psalm tunes on the first site Stolzi provides? The tunes derive from the Geneva Psalter of the 1540s and sound amazingly like the Scottish tunes from the Scottish Psalter (with which I am familiar) - must have been a great deal of cross fertilization. Fascinating!

A. De Araujo  •  Link

OK Pauline, your memory is better than mine!

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

"...where a Presbyter made a sad and long sermon, which vexed me..."
Sam, on five previous occassions, made remarks that not be friendly,
especially this one ; "and made a lazy sermon, like a Presbyterian."…

then this: "but, it being a Presbyterian one, it was so long, that after above an hour of it we went away,"…

David Quidnunc  •  Link

More on church practices preserved in the rural U.S.

Here's more support for the idea that some worship practices from Pepys' day may have been preserved by American blacks. This is from "Black America's musical links to Scotland," an article today in "The Scotsman" newspaper's "Heritage & Culture" website (link at bottom). I've read in plenty of other places that cultural practices (and songs and ways of speaking) are often preserved much longer in isolated rural areas, and this is a rather dramatic example of it -- something preserved both in the Western Isles of Scotland and in certain rural churches (both black and white) in the American South.

The specific practices mentioned in the article are NOT what Pepys would have seen in a Church of England service -- at least I don't think so. I assume the practices mentioned here are from dissenter churches.

Here's what the article says:

"[J]azz legend Dizzy Gillespie [...] often regaled his friends with stories of how the Scots had influenced the blacks in his home state of Alabama. He spoke to his long-time collaborator, Willie Ruff, a bassist and French horn player [and now a music professor at Yale University], about how his parents told of the black slaves who spoke Gaelic, the tongue of their masters. [...]

"A chance visit to a black Baptist church in Alabama led Ruff to discover that some congregations were still 'lining out' in the Deep South. This is a call and response form of worship where a precentor sings the first line of a psalm and the congregation follows.

"Ruff had thought that this ancient form of worship, which predated the Negro spiritual, had died out. But then he discovered that the practise was still going strong among white, Gaelic speaking congregations in the Western Isles. His investigations also took him to a white congregation in Kentucky.


"Lining out -- or "precenting the line" -- had been commonplace throughout Europe in the 16th, 17th and 18th century. At a time of low literacy rates and high costs of prayer books it had become an easy way to teach and distribute the word of God.

"The English brought precenting the line to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The Highlanders, along with Puritans and Baptists, also took it to the New World, and it was widely practised by the frontiersmen, planters and adventurers who carved out what is the modern US. Eventually it fizzled out in most areas, but the tradition had been kept alive in the remote communities of the Western Isles, as it had in the rural areas of the Deep South. [Correction: Kentucky is in no way in the Deep South.]

"Ruff discovered a church in Alabama where blacks worshipped in Gaelic as late as 1918, giving a clue to the extent to which the Gaels spread their culture -- from North Carolina to Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi -- as they prospered on the back of slavery and moved to bigger and better plantations. It was perhaps a refusal to move with the times and the remoteness of the communities which has ensured the survival of precenting the line."

Here's a link (while it lasts):…

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

"a Presbyter made a sad and long sermon" A presbyter need not necessarily mean a Presbyterian!

PRESBYTER, an Ancient and Reverend Person, a Priest; also a Lay-elder.
PRESBYTERAL, belonging to a Priest or Elder.
---An Universal Etymological English Dictionary. N. Bailey, 1724.

1. A priest
2. A presbyterian
---A Dictionary Of The English Language. Samuel Johnson, 1756.

NJ Lois  •  Link

For dramatic performances and style of American Black Churches see "God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse," especially "The Creation," James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The Genevan Psalter

The Genevan Psalter, also known as The Huguenot Psalter,[1] is a metrical psalter in French created under the supervision of John Calvin for liturgical use by the Reformed churches of the city of Geneva in the sixteenth century.….

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