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Eloquence of the Pulpit.
ry; but debate awakens genius, and excites attention. His subjects, though noble, are trite and common. They are become so familiar to the public ear, that it requires no ordinary genius in the preacher to fix attention. Nothing is more difficult than to bestow on what is common the grace of novelty. Besides, the subject of the preacher usually confines him to abstract qualities, to virtues and vices; whereas, that of popular speakers leads them to that of persons; which is generally more interesting to the hearers, and occupies more powerfully the imagination. We are taught by the preacher to detest only the crime ; by the pleader to detest the criminal. Hence it happens that, though the number of moderately good preachers is great, so few have arrived at eminence. Perfection is very distant from modern preaching. The object, however, is truly noble and worthy of being pursued with zeal.
To excel in preaching, it is necessary to bave a fixed and habitual view of its object. This is to persuade men to become good. Every sermon ought therefore to be a persuasive oration. It is not to discuss some abstruse point, that the preacher ascends the pulpit. It is not to teach his hearer's something new, but to make them better; to give them at once clear views and persuasive im.. pressions of religious truths.
The principal charaeteristics of pulpit Eloquence, as distinguished from the other kinds of public speaking, appear to be these two, gravity and warmth. It is neither easy nor common to unite these characters of Eloquence. The grave, when it is predominant, becomes a dull uniform solemnity. The warm, when it wants grave
Eloquence of the Pulpit.
ity, borders on the light and theatrical.
A proper union of the two, forms that character of preaching, which the French call Onction; that affecting, penetrating, and interesting manner, which flows from a strong sense in the preacher of the importance of the truths he delivers, and an earnest desire that they may make full impression on the hearts of his hearers.
A sermon, as a particular species of composition, requires the strictest attention to unity. By this we mean that there should be some main point to which the whole tenor of the sermon shall refer. It must not be a pile of different subjeets heaped upon each other, but one object must predominate through the whole. Hence, however, it must not be understood, that there should be no divisions or separate heads in a disa course ; nor that one single thought only should be exhibited in different points of view. Unity is not to be understood in so limited a sense ; it admits some variety; it requires only that union and connexion be so far preserved, as to make the whole concur in some one impression on the mind. Thus, for instance, a preacher may employ several different arguments to enforce the love of God; he may also inquire into the causes of the decay of this virtue ; still one great object is presented to the mind. But if, because his text says, “ He that loveth God must love his brother also,” he should therefore mix in the same discourse arguments for the love of God and for the love of our neighbour, he would grossly offend against unity, and leave a very confused impression on the minds of his hearers.
Eloquence of the Pulpit. Sermons are always more striking, and generally more useful, the more precise and particular the subject of them is. Unity can never be so perfect in a general as in a particular subject. General subjects, indeed, such as the excellency or the pleasures of religion, are often chosen by young preachers, as the most showy, and the easiest to be handled; but these subjects produce not the high effects of preaching. Attention is much more commanded by taking some particular view of a great subject, and employing on that the whole force of argument and Eloquence. To recommend some one virtue, or inveigh
, against a particular vice, affords a subject not deficient in unity or precision. But if that virtue or vice be considered as assuming a particular aspect in certain characters or certain situations in life, the subject becomes still more interesting. The execution is more difficult, but the merit and the effect are higher.
A preacher should be cautious not to exhaust his subject; since nothing is more opposite to persuasion, than unnecessary and tedious fulness. There are always some things which he may suppose to be known, and some which require only brief attention. If he endeavour to omit nothing which his subject suggests, he must unavoidably encumber it, and diminish its force.
To render his instructions interesting to his hearers should be the grand object of every preacher. He should bring home to their hearts the truths which he inculcates, and make each suppose himself particularly addressed. He should avoid all intricate reasonings ; avoid expressing himself in general, speculative propositions ; or
Eloquence of the Pulpit.
laying down practical truths in an abstract, metaphysical manner. A discourse ought to be carried on in the strain of direct address to the audience ; not in the strain of one writing an essay, but one speaking to a multitude, and studying to connect what is called application, or what immediately refers to practice, with the doctrinal parts of the sermon.
It is always highly advantageous to keep in view the different ages, characters, and conditions of men, and to accommodate directions and exhortations to each of these different classes. Whenever you advance what touches a man's character, or is applicable to his circumstances, you are sure of his attention. No study is more necessary for a preacher, than the study of human life, and of the human heart. To discover a man to himself in a light in which he never saw his character before, produces a wonderful effect. Those sermons, though the most difficult in composition, are not only the most beautiful, but also the most uscful, which are founded on the il: lustration of some peculiar character, or remarkable piece of history in the sacred writings; by pursuing which we may trace, and lay open, some of the most secret windings of the human heart. Other topics of preaching are becoine trite; but this is an extensive ficld which hitherto has been little explored, and possesses all the advantages of being curious, new, and highly useful. Bishop Butler's sermons on the character of Balaam is an example of this kind of preaching.
Fashion, which operates so extensively on human manners, has given to preaching at different times a change of character. This howev
is a torrent which swells to-day and subdues tomorrow. Sometimes poetical preaching is faslıionable ; sometimes philosophical. At one time it must be all pathetic; at another all argumentative e; as some celebrated preacher has set the example. Each of these modes is very defective; and he who conforms himself to it, will both confine and corrupt his genius. Truth and good sense are the sole basis, on which he can build with safety. Mode and humour are feeble and unsteady. No example should be servilely imi. tated. From various examples the preacher may collect materials for improvement; but servility of imitation extinguishes all genius, or rather proves entire want of it.
CCINDUCT OF A DISCOURSE IN ALL ITS PARTS..., INTRODUCTION, DIVISION, NARRATION,
Having already considered what is peculiar to each of the three great fields of public speaking, popular assemblies, the bar and the pulpit, we shall now treat of what is common to them all, and explain the conduct of a discourse or oration in general.
T'he parts which compose a regular oration are these six ; the exordium or introduction; the state or the division of the subject; narration or explication; the reasoning or arguments; the pathetic part; and the conclusion. It is not necessary that each of these enter into every public