Page images
PDF
EPUB

liament to awe a virulent faction into silence, and speechless dread, by the force of a word or a gesture, in which the whole energy of his giant mind went out, from a dressing room--from practising before a mirror ; of a Brougham, to catch a proper power of expression, first locking himself up for three weeks lo the study, night and day, of the single oration on the crown,” and then writing over fifteen different times his peroration before bringing it to its final shape, they would stare with wonder and incredulity.

In the church, particularly, all such labor of preparation is but too generally regarded as trifling puerility, vain and criminal sacrifice to the love of applause, or at least, sad and unjustifiable waste of time. The Christian minister who should study the art of expression, who should spend every week some hours in the culture of his taste, the acquisition of words, the discipline of his voice, and the improvement of his manner, would be charged with criminally squandering that time on trifles, which should be devoted directly to the care of souls. They, who would think no pains too great, no expense too heavy, which should secure in time of religious interest, the instrumentality of a man of God who can speak with a resistless force of truth and overwhelming vehemence of holy passion, yet, in the inconsistency of their ignorance and thoughtlessness, will blame the man who employs the innocent means that are made necessary by God himself to the attainment of this power. Even the lawful culture of God's noblest gifts, the acquisition of a power to which he has chiefly confided the great work of spreading his gospel on earth, is with them sin

and folly. If they meet with a modern Apollos, “an eloquent man," mighty in handling the truth of God, capable of moving, and with the aid of God's grace, of subduing the hearts of men, they esteem him a man directly gifted of heaven, receiving from lavish but capricious nature, his whole powers of persuasion, and never imagine that he must have gone through the low drudgery of a rhetorician's mill.

Perhaps such stolid simplicity might be passed by with only a smile of pity, did not such views infect, also, the expectant ministers of religion. But they too, to a lamentable extent, are carried away by the same delusion. They think of nothing more por higher than storing their minds with all theological lore, and are content with the old adage, “a good

textuary is a good divine." Especially if an elevated piety be added to extensive knowledge, they deem themselves thoroughly furnished to their work; and taste at last the sad fruits of their folly when too late to retrieve it. Insensible of the importance of skill in the use of their armor, they wonder that at the very appearance of it, the enemies of truth do not fall prostrate. Uiterly ignorant of the power of expressing thought and feeling, the most moving truths of the gospel fall powerless from their lips. Sabbath after Sabbath, they enter the pulpit and deliver from lips that at least express no feeling, discourses as destitute of force and passion to hearers that are equally motionless and dead. Years gradually wear away the little enthusiasm that the ardor of youth forced, insensibly to themselves, into their preaching, and then all is cold and repulsive. The house of God, of consequence, is neglected. The congregation are wearied and disgusted. They demand more effective preachers. And those men of God, who might have become able ministers of the word, sought out and esteemed by all, are dispirited and sad, leave the field which they find they cannot till successfully; and the church of God mourns over the loss of their piety, talents, and acquirements—all rendered ineffective by their neglect to cultivate one important gift. Oh! would that the children of this world were not here so much wiser in their generation than the children of light. Surely, his six months diligent culture of his voice, with half-shorn head in a cave, was pot misjudged policy, wasted time and sacrifice, for the Grecian orator, by which he was to attain the empire of factious Athens, the sway of all their furious passions by a word, to procure for himself an immortality of glory, such as no other mortal ever attained. Is it unwise, is it wrong for the servant of God to devote time and labor to acquire a similar power over the minds and hearts of men—not that he

may gain glory to himself-not that he may preserve to them their rights and civil liberties, but that he may save their souls and bring additional glory 10 the God of their salvation ?

I repeat, then, here is a great, a most important duty laid before him who aspires to the elevation of a successful Christian minister. It is not enough to possess the power of thinking,--to be thoroughly imbued with all theological lore, to have a heart of warin Christian sensibilities, of strong, fervent zeal and passion. These are essential-entirely indispensable. But they are not all. The power of expressing

[ocr errors]

truth known, passion felt, must be added. This it is which constitutes the peculiar function of the preacher.

We have all seen the man of known intellect and acquirement, of devoted spirit, too, rise and address a waiting congregation, and through the obscurity of his method, the want of command over thought and feeling, the clumsiness of his style, and the dullness of his manner, but still more to stupify and chill his hearers. And we have seen, also, another of inferior parts, of lower piety, perhaps, whose first word or look fixed the eye, whose clear and distinct method carried the attention, whose style and manner, so true, so natural, so easy, impressed every thought and implanted every feeling. The difference is as much the fruit of art as is the superiority of the thoroughly trained musician, or the long experienced artizan over mere genius undrilled, undisciplined. Natural genius will indeed make here, as every where else, a difference in the comparative degree of attainment made under the tuition of art; but it will not supply the place of principles and rules, into which observation has rendered the true elements of power in every eminent speaker, nor of systematic practice founded on those principles.

No—the ancients were right. They judged from experience. The poet—the eminent in any other line may be the product of nature alone ; the orator is formed-is made so by art and training. It is no more absurd 10 expect that a man will be eloquent in a foreign tongue in which he cannot speak a sentence without faltering, than that he will be so in his own native dialect of which he has not acquired a mastery ;-10 more absurd to expect that a man who has never opened his lips in song will sing with the sweetness of Orpheus, than that he who has never filly trained his voice will speak with the force of a Chatham or a Whitefield. “There is no native eloquence, more than there is native running races or fighting battles.”

It has been justly observed by one to whom his own experience probably verified the remark, “the most successful preachers are those who, in their discourses, observe most the laws according to which power in public speaking universally displays itself.” And certainly it is not difficult to decide which of the iwo has fairest promise of success, he who devotes himself 10 the practice of an art ignorant of all its laws, or he who has closely and thoroughly studied and

[ocr errors]

comprehended it so closely and thoroughly that they have become the secret principles and guides of all his efforts.

It is not the object of the rhetorician to teach the arts of display ;-how to round a period, to hang artificial flowers on lifeless statues of thought, to string together epithets of high sound but of scanty sense; how to balance gracefully to this side and that, with all the regularity of a pendulum, and to show how prettily the voice can glide up and down through the whole range of the musical scale; in other words to teach bombast and rant. Nor does his art seek merely to prune speech of all such false ornaments and disgusting trickery. Its great province is to develope and cultivate that highest, noblest attribute of man—the faculty of discourse in its outward working; to furnish it a suitable body, and feed and educate that body. The connexion is not closer or more vital between body and spirit than between thought and expression. This all experience proves; for who attempts to think but in words, as who conceives a spirit but in body. This intimate connexion, 100, the phenomena of language demonstrate; since in different tongues,-in languages originating in different ages and countries we find, from the vital intimacy of the two, both reason or discourse and speech expressed by the self-same word. Hence, too, speech has well been called “the incarnation of thought." This body it is the high duty of him who aims to sway the minds of men at will, diligently and lawfully to train and educate. And, surely, it is no small, no despicable task to make the vital fluid circulate through every limb, diffusing life, vigor and beauty through every part. It is no mean task to acquire the power to present truth in a perfect, a symmetrical, vigorous, healthful body of speech. It is a work, in truth, in the accomplishment of which man comes nearest to Him who gave expression to his own infinite attributes in the

perfect forms of creation.

The process of training, already summarily indicated, no part of which can be dispensed with, at once manifests the greatness of the work.

The idea of what eloquence is-of what it is in its constiluent nature-in its form and outward appearance-in its prerogative and power is to be awakened and developed. Not only must there be a conception of what it is, but the idea must be reduced to a practical idea in the mind, imSECOND SERIES, VOL. VIII. NO. 1.

6

pressed on all the faculties of the intellect and all the susceptibilities of the soul ; made a practical standard or model guiding insensibly, as does the idea of harmony the fingers of the organist, all the powers of the mind, a standard of atlainment to which the aim shall ever be directed till perfection be reached ; a standard, too, of criticism that shall indicate at once to the orator, as the smooth concord of sounds to the harmonist, that the end is reached, and persuasion, in perfect figure, sits on his lips. This is to be accomplished as in the case of the artist by the long and familiar communion with the most finished models of eloquence in ancient and in modern times. What an attainment is this to the preacherto possess a distinct idea of what eloquence in its perfectness is-of what it was in Jesus Christ !

Our enthusiasm must be inspired and fed in the endeavor to realize this idea. The ravishing beauties of discourse compact and solid with thought, animated with passion, and invested with a rich, graceful drapery of words must be pointed out and contemplated ; the glorious achievements of a finished oratory, the pure and exalted pleasures which line the path of progress as more and more perfect forms come forth from the forming mind like the successive stages of perfection in original creation, all good but the better ever last;-these must be pressed home to the heart till it warms and glows into a quenchless ardor of passion.

With the idea and the enthusiasm well developed, the training in iis stricter sense is to be pursued. A ready command of thought is to be acquired. * Knowledge is so to be stored as that its various depositories shall be known; and the thoughts laid up can be as promptly furnished to use as his various wares by the accomplished tradesman. The powers of invention, trained under other hands, must here be subjected to the speaker's will, to be sent forth at once into any field of thought and bring back any assigned fruit or flower of intellect. The treasures of knowledge must not only be possessed, but each casket must be known, its position, its contents. Spirited eloquence awaits not the slow process of a tardy association that must grope around the whole chamber of thought, before it can bring forth to light ils appointed truth. Practice must make its motions true at the first effort, and quick as the minsirel's touch, whom long exercise has taught to strike each note, with the preci

« PreviousContinue »