Augustine: an effective preacher.
The success of Augustine as a theorist and practitioner of homiletics can be seen in the sheer number of sermons and works preserved today.
In his life time, Augustine probably preached 8,000 sermons. More than nine hundred of them still exist in printed form today.
But perhaps the best way to judge him, the way Augustine himself would perhaps prefer to be judged, and a way most fitting for an essay on his view of the audience, is by the effect he had upon his hearers.
For those who were not educated, Augustine took his own advice and preached in vivid images and with word pictures about daily life.
Yet, among the people in his church at Hippo
were a few with a liberal education, and others who were professional speakers. How could he keep the simple content while not boring those with more astute minds?
One method by which Augustine accomplished this was by the use of his sheer skill with words. Augustine, by his skill, drew the respect of even his most severe critics.
One of his Manichean opponents, Secundinus, said that, although he would not acknowledge much in Augustine that he saw as Christian, the bishop of Hippo was on all occasions a born orator and a veritable god of skilled words.
By his ability to turn a truth quickly into an aphorism and to grasp the heart of a long argument in a brief summary, all in an extempore fashion, Augustine attracted and identified himself with those listeners who were educated.
Though people varied greatly in their life experiences, Augustine understood the nature of the human soul in all of its weakness and inclination to evil.
For this reason, he was able to approach all who came to hear from the standpoint of unity.
This often became his most effective means of relating to his listeners and then applying the truth of the Bible to their everyday living.