« PreviousContinue »
sion and suddenness of thought; which, at first, could be reached only by long and tedious reflection on the structure of the scale, the relations of pitch, and all the details of the musical art. “It is not the dilatory precision of thought and words, stored up in memory, which qualifies mind for its high action in victorious elocution; but the electric flash of thought, and the broad circumference of illuminated vision, filled with words for perspicuity, precision, strength or beauty, and familiar by use, offering every where and constantly their willing aid-a body-guard clustering by affinity and affection unseen around the orator, as guardian spirits attend the saints."
The command of feeling is to be acquired. Not only must the various passions of the soul be known, be cultivated and expanded in the symmetry of virtue, but the different chords of emotion must, like the strings of the harper, be under command, so that any can be touched at pleasure. Here is a higher advance of art. For the will has access to the feelings only over the domain of the understanding; and its power inust be established over both. It is the prerogative only of the highly accomplished orator 10 hold thus all the voices of passion and to make any speak as he
may desire. He only can do this who has learned how to present at once the objects of feeling and has trained his sensibilities to the most ready obedience. Especially is much training requisite here to enable the orator to force the ardor of passion into the forms of thought; to keep up both the fires of intellect and soul together and in due proportion.
Next, method requires distinct attention—long, severe, patient study. Of the very first importance is this branch of the preacher's training. It is, perhaps, more by his accurate method than by any other quality that his intellectual rank will be determined by men of discernment. It was to his method more than to any thing else that the celebrated Reinhard of the modern German pulpit attributes his success and renown as a preacher. No common discipline will suffice to give this power of expression. It is no slight task achieved, even, to develope fully the idea of method, although an essential element of mind;-to get out distinct and complete the notion of what method is—that “progressive transition” which implies a beginning and an end; which presupposes unity, which neither admits of the amputation of essential parts, nor of the forcible insertion of foreign heterogeneal matter to maim or enfeeble the one, complete, living principle of the thought; which, with undeviating aim, is ever pressing forward towards its end ; and which is naturally so pleasing and is so essential in the great work of convincing, instructing and persuading. How rarely, indeed, is this important element to be found in the common oratory of the day, whether of the forum, the senate, or the pulpit? How little is there of this exhausting, orderly, symmetrical method-either of that gradatory kind, if I may so term it, where, by the power of the mind's keen gaze and forcible impulse or firm pressure, the subject is cleft and laid open and its natural parts as of an orange are spread out, are complete, proportionate, and in place, following each other by regular intervals or steps; or of that other continuous kind which seizing with almost instinctive promptness and sagacity the ends of the fibres, skilfully unwinds, as in the throwster's art, the entire ball of the thought unbroken, and untangled? The method that we commonly discover, if it be worthy of the name, is that of the careless breaker of stone for macadamizing, who chips off a piece here and a piece there from the rocky mass, but can neither tell why he began here, or stopped there, or why he passed round this way rather than that, only that, perhaps, it so happened, and he ceased when his cart was full. How little is there of that keen penetration and discriminating study which pierces to the heart of the subject and then follows out the various arteries or veins to the extremities; which is the fruit only of much training and discipline ?*
A body of language, moreover, is to be furnished to methodized thought and passion; and, here, lies another rich and extensive province to be entered, explored and subjected by the orator. But on this point it is unnecessary to dwell, as it is both trite and has already received, perhaps, sufficient notice. The general means of training are the same here as elsewhere. It is by much practice under the direction of ex
* Cicero's observation on this point deserves to be engraved on the memory of every student of oratory. Omnes enim, sive artis sunt loci, sive ingenii cujusdam atque prudentiæ, qui modo insunt in ea re, de qua scribimus.
perienced taste and exercised judgment; by frequent and careful labor in putting thought into language. This is the process adopted and most faithfully applied by all who have gathered laurels in the field of eloquence. This is the great leading direction given by the most philosophical of orators and the most eloquent of philosophers. Caput antem est, quod (ut vere dicam) minime facimus, (est enim magni laboris, quem anquirentibus nobis, omnique acie ingenii contemplontibus ostendunt se et occurrunt, plerique fugimus,) quam plurimum scribere ; STILUS OPTIMUS ET PRAESTANTISSIMUS DICENDI EFFECTOR AC MAGISTER. It is here we discover the secret of Edwards' power as a preacher; who, although he professedly despised the whole art of expression and was extremely careless and almost slovenly in his style, yet was so effective a speaker. He owed that power to his constant practice from boyhood, of thinking with his pen. He thus acquired that copiousness of language and power of expression which redeemed his productions from their other faults.
One thing more demands the preacher's careful attention before he can be deemed thoroughly furnished for his great work of teaching and persuading. It is the command of a pleasing and energetic delivery. He must acquaint himself with all the various functions of speech; he must understand the kind and degree of expression belonging to each ; he must, moreover, have those functions of speech so perfectly familiarized by practice and subjected to his control, that he can employ them at pleasure. Here is an art; an important, a most interesting art by itself. As he cannot justly claim the name of an accomplishedfartist who does not know all the implements of his art with their respective uses, and can handle them with skill and effect, so neither can he be called an accomplished speaker who does not know all the movements of the voice ; who does not understand precisely what is their office in the expression of the various degrees or kinds of thought and passion ; and who cannot, whatever may be the circumstances in which he is placed, whatever even may be his own feelings, command just that vocal movement which nature has appropriated to the sentiment he desires to utter. This, in the present advanced state of the art of elocution now established on the basis of a science, the principles of which are clearly ascertained and set forth, he may do; and he who enters the responsible office of a preacher of the gospel without this preparation, may well consider whether he has not seized a sword for the battle, on which he has put no edge. It was in infinite wisdom that the spread of the gospel was confided to the persuasive accents of human speech. There is a resistless charm and power in utterance that sits closely and elegantly upon the thought and feeling, or rather into which, as into their own native body, intellect and soul send their own life and fire. And the truth of God surely deserves the most finished body of expression which human art and skill can give.
Such is the training which the ambassador of God must go through to become an effective preacher. To the point of making the power of expression his own which this course of training will give him, he cannot be indifferent, if he rightly appreciate his own peculiar office work, if he realize at all its importance to his success.
The expression of thought and feeling is his sole peculiar work as a preacher; and necessarily just so far as he is deficient in the power of expression, just so far is he lacking in fitness for his work.
Just in proportion too, as he possesses this power, will be his success. The possession of it indeed, has a most important bearing on his success remotely and indirectly, as well as immediately and directly.
It will affect seriously his reputation, to which no servant of Christ can wisely be indifferent. The exhibition of this power, as the exhibition of talents, of learning, of piety, will command even from the men of the world a respect for the saCred profession. It will draw them under the influence of the gospel. It will render the minister of God a man to be sought and desired ; and will open him a way more effectually to address the truths of the gospel to multitudes; as the throngs which the name of a Whitefield drew together most fully attest. 'It will favorably and mightily influence the preacher himself. It is the fruit and effect of art that it turns every thing to its own account. The painter sees every where forms of beauty. He looks on every tree in the landscape, every cloud in the heavens, every feature in the countenance containing an element of beauty ; and he is perpetually striving to conceive that object as delineated on canvass. Thus
his taste and his skill are ever forming and developing, while many an hour is redeemed from listlessness and sloth, and all places, and all objects are converted into sources of pleasure and profit. It is the aim of the preacher to persuade men. If he has acquired any high degree of the art, he will ever be studying the means of persuasion. Fired with his object ever in view, he will pursue the investigations of science with a more cager zeal; his study will be lighted more by the midnight lamp; he will be a more profound and thorough theologian and scholar. He will seek lo know more of that mind and heart which he is to address; and will with greater interest and delight, study in familiar intercourse, the minds, the habits of thought and feeling of his congregation, and will then furnish himself with the weapons of persuasion. He will be more diligent and thorough in his preparations for the pulpit; and adapt them more directly to his great end-persuasion. Entering the sanctuary with his object steadily in view, he will address himself to his high office with greater skill, and will speak with a greater confidence in the power of divine truth. More than all things else, he will feel the need of a fervent piety; of a soul that can sympathize with all the sorrows, all the compassions of the Saviour of sinners, and can be swelled with his holy passion. He will drink deeper of his love. He will study with more eager desire to copy Him who spake as never man spake. In every way, thus, the acquisition of this power must exert a favorable influence on the Christian preacher himself.
And will God be insensible to the careful and lawful culture of one of his noblest gifts? Will the Spirit, without whose power, the eloquence of an angei were vain and impotent to convert souls, despise the attainments of him who has qualified himself for the duties of an office like this? No :—the success of a Summerfield, a Payson and a Griffin attests that the Holy Ghost loves to second the vivid and forcible presentation of his own truth.
But it is in its immediate effects and fruits that the importance of this power ofexpression is conspicuously seen. Men are not converted and saved by the truth simply-by truth unexpressed. “ The words," says our Saviour, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." The quickening, saving power of divine truth can be secured only on condition