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OF STRIKING PASSAGES.
PERSPICUITY is never prejudicial either to
. sage is, the clearer should be the expression. One
. much is required to comprehend them. Such do not consider, that every discourse which wants an interpreter, is a very bad one.
The supreme perfection of a speaker's style should be to please the unlearned, as well as the learned, by exhibiting an abundance of graces for the latter, and being very perspicuous for the former.-St. Austin wrote • at first against the Manichees, in a flowery and sublime style ; whence his writings were unintelligible to those who had but a moderate share of learning, at least not
without great difficulty. Upon this he was told, that if he • desired to bave his works more generally useful he must • write in the plain and common style, so as to be equally
intelligible to the learned and the unlearned. The holy • father received this advice with his usual humility, and • made proper use of it in the books he afterwards wrote against the heretics, and in his sermons. His example ought to be the standard of all those who are to instruct others.
• As obscurity is the fault wbich the preacher must chief• ly avoid, and that his auditors are not allowed to interrupt • him, when they meet with any thing obscure, St. Austin • advises him to read in the eyes and countenances of his
auditors, whether they understand him or not ; and to re'peat the same thing by giving it different turns, till he perceives he is understood.'
Rollin's Belles Lettres, vol. ii. c. iii. Siv. p. 305-307.
loves to find in a sermon, some of those grand and new ideas, which delight, as if they were the fruit of our own invention ; for truth,' says Fontenelle, 'enters so naturally into the mind, that when “it is at first apprehended, it seems as if nothing more were necessary than to call it to remembrance.'* Such is the sentiment we experience, when reading this sublime passage of Bossuet; God, in the sacred scriptures, derides idols which bear the title of gods. Where are your
gods,' saith he to the people, those gods in whom
you have put your trust? Let them rise up, and help you, and be your protection.'t Observe, my brethren, that this Great God, this true God, and He, who alone deserves by his be'neficence the majesty of this title, would have us understand, that it is an insufferable dignity to bear the name of God, without supporting so great a name by extensive beneficence. This 'noble idea of power is far different from that which the Mighty of the earth form in their
Dr. Ward ascribes Obscurity chiefly to the three following causes : First, all ambiguity of expression, arising from the different senses in which a word is capable of being taken. Again, Obscurity is occasioned either by too short and concise a manner of speaking, or by sentences too long and prolix. And a third cause of obscurity he states to be parenthesis, when it is either too long, or too frequent.--He gives examples under each head. See System of Oratory, vol. i. p. 327–335.
Plurality of Worlds. Second evening. † Deut. xxxii. 37, 38.
'minds. They imagine, that their grandeur ‘shines forth more by laying waste, than by conferring benefits; by wars, by carnage, by the proud enterprises of those destroyers of provinces, whom we call conquerors.'*
Such also, is the admiration excited by that beautiful passage, in the funeral Oration for Louis xv. by M. de Beavais, bishop of Sennes, who, in this kind of Christian Eloquence, possesses a reputation as brilliant as it is merited.
* The people, doubtless, have no right to mur'mur: but they have also, undoubtedly, the right to keep silence; and their silence is the lesson of kings.'
OF COMMON PLACES.
UCH strokes enliven a sermon, and leave,
in the mind of the auditor, an indelible impression. The more they are multiplied in a discourse, the higher we soar above those diffuse writers, whose productions, being destitute of genius, are a mere collection of common places.
Fragment of a sermon, " on the means of sanctifying grandeur," for the fourth Sunday of Lent.
By common places, I mean, here, loose details equally applicable to all subjects : for every subject has its common places, which will become apposite and peculiar, in the mouth of an energetic and original Orator.
Enter a church in the middle of a sermon : if, in a minute, you do not discern the drift of the discourse ; if you be obliged to wait to the end of a division, in order to penetrate the design of the preacher, pronounce confidently, that he wanders in a labyrinth of common places; that he hath not composed through inspiration ; and that he labours hard to make up, by the redundancy of words, for the sterility of ideas.
What then will you discover in his inexhaustible loquacity ? disgusting repetitions, or extravagant conceptions ; plagiarisms or imitations; an incurable facility of uttering expressions, which always leave the mind empty ; pitiful proofs of a beggarly mediocrity, from which nothing can be expected; and discourses, of which all the contents were known before they were heard.
Hence arise those frequent enumerations, which are only a redundancy of words, sometimes as dazzling in the delivery, as they are insipid in the perusal. Such puerile figures have been, for a long time, applauded by a great many hearurs,
who regarded, as the noblest effort of human genius, the mechanical talent of collecting, into one period, accumulated substantives, crowded epithets, rapid contradictions, unexpected antitheses, trivial or unnatural metaphors, repetitions re-echoed, abundance of synonymous words, symmetry of combinations, and unceasing contrasts.
But, it hath been at length understood, that this tiresome prating was not true eloquence, and it is now become disgustful.
Guard against tedious enumerations, which occasion you such painful efforts of memory, and are so soon forgotten
When an Orator studies his sermon, he is the best judge of it; and experience daily teaches him, that the passages, which he finds the greatest difficulty to commit to memory, scarcely ever deserve to be learnt.
OF ORATORICAL PREPARATION.
CONNECTED arguments imprint them
selves more easily on the memory, than those collections of words, which are destitute of