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add, that the exordium itself, if well chosen, will always contain agreeable and instructive matter, so that, considered in itself, something good is always to be learned from it.
We cannot approve, then, of the custom of the English preachers, who enter immediately into the literal explication of the text, and make it serve for an exordium; after which they divide their discourses into several parts, which they discuss as they go on. Surely the hearer is not suddenly able to comprehend their explications, having yet neither emotions nor preparation. Methinks it would be much better gently to stir them up, and move them by something which gives no pain, than to load them all on a sudden with an explication, which they can neither clearly comprehend, nor perhaps distinctly hear.
Least of all do we approve of the custom of some of our own preachers, who, intending to explain the text, or to make some reflections throughout the whole sermon, enter immediately into the matter without any exordiums at all. I am persuaded they are induced to do thus only for the sake of avoiding the difficulty of composing an exordium, that is, in one word, only for the sake of indulging their idleness and negligence.
Taking it for granted, then, that an exordium must be used, it may be asked, What are the principal benefits we expect to receive from them? and with what general views ought they to be composed? In answer, we say, the principal design of an exordium is, to attract or excite the affections of the audience-to stir up their attention—and to prepare them for the particular matters of which we are about to treat. *
The two first of these must only be proposed indirectly. A preacher would render himself ridiculous, if in ordinary discourses, and without cases of extreme necessity, he should labour by this mean to acquire the esteem and
Introductions are intended to excite affection and attention, and to prepare the auditor for the subject. “Causa principii nulla alia est, quam ut auditorem, quo sit nobis in cæteris partibus accommodatior, præparemus. id fieri tribus maxime rebus, inter actores plurimos constat, si benevolum, attentum, docilem fecerimus: non quia ista per totam actionem non sint custodienda, sed quia in ini. tiis maximne necessaria, per quæ in animum judicis, ut procedere ultra possimus, admittimur." Quint. Inst. lib. iv. cap. 1.
affection of his congregation. This method would be more likely to make them rather despise than esteem him.
You must not, then, compliment the people, nor praise yourself, nor indeed speak of yourself in any manner of way. These are affectations, which never succeed; and yet some able preachers slip into this weakness, especially when they preach to strange congregations, and, above all, when they address assemblies of the rich, the learned, or the noble. Then they never fail to interlard their exordiums with some common-place saws either the pleasure it gives them to be called to that pul. pit—or an affectation of self-contempt-a confession of their great weakness—or something of this kind. To speak my opinion freely, I think these are pedantic airs, which have a very bad effect. Sensible auditors do not like to hear such fantastical pretences, which are both contrary to the gravity of the pulpit, and to the decency of a modest man.
How then, you will ask, must the affections of the hcarers be attracted? I answer, indirectly, by an exordium well chosen, and well spoken: and this is the surest way of succeeding.
In regard to attention, it is certain it ought to be awakened and fixed in the same manner, that is, by something agreeable and worthy of being heard, a composition of piety and good sense. I do not disapprove of asking sometimes for attention, either on account of the importance of the matter, the solemnity of the day, the state of the church, or, in short, of any other particular occasion; but it must not be done often; for then it would never be minded; and, when it is done, the fewer words the better.
The principal use of an exordium is, to prepare the hearer's mind for the particular matters you have to treat of, and insensibly to conduct him to it. If this end be not obtained, the exordium cannot but be impertinent; and, on the contrary, if this end be answered, the exordium cannot be improper.
When I say the hearer's mind must be prepared for and conducted to the matter, I mean to say, these are two different things. You prepare the hearer for the matter, when you stir up in him such dispositions as he ought to have, to hear well, and to profit much. You insensibly conduct your hearer to the matter, when, by the natural connexion of the subjects of which you speak, you lead him from one thing to another, and enable him to enter into the doctrine of your sermon.
Let us advert a moment to each. The preparation must be determined by the subject of which you are going to speak; for if it be a sad and afflicting subject, in which you aim to excite the compassion, the grief, and the tears of your audience, you must begin the exordium by imparting such a disposition.
If you have to treat of a profound and difficult mystery, aim to diffuse elevation and admiration among the hearers. If some terrible example of God's justice be the subject, endeavour to stir up fear. If some enormous crime, prepare the mind for horror, by a meditation on the enormity of human corruption. If you have to treat of repentance, and in an extraordinary manner to interest your hearers in it, you must begin to dispose them to it by general ideas of God's wrath, which we have de. served—of the little fruit we have borne to his glory-or something of a like nature. If, on the contrary, the matter you have to treat of be common and tranquil, aim in your exordium to place the mind in its natural state, and only endeavour to excite honest and Christian tempers, which we all ought always to have. In a word, the exordium must always participate the spirit of the subject that you mear: to discuss, in order to dispose your hearers for it. Not to use in this manner, is to lose all the benefit of an exordium; and to use it to an opposite purpose, would be to renounce common sense, and to act like an idiot.
The second use of an introduction is, to conduct the hearer gradually to the subject of which you are about to treat. This (as I have said) depends on the cornexion be(ween the subjects of the exordium with themselves, and with the matter of the discussion. I say first with themselves; for they must, as it were, hold each other by the hand, and have a mutual dependence and subordination, otherwise the auditor will be surprised to find himself sud. -denly transported from one topic to another. I say also Vol. 11.
with the discussion; for the exordium is principally intended to introduce that.
The first quality of an exordium is brevity. This, however, has a proper measure; for as it ought not to be excessively long, so neither should it be too short; the middle way is the best. The longest exordium may have ten or twelve periods, and the shortest six or seven, provided the periods be not too long. The reason is, that, on the one hand, proper time may be given the hearer to prepare himself to hear you with attention, and to follow you in the discussion of the matter; and, on the other, that in giving time sufficient for that, you may prevent his wandering out of the subject, wearying himself, and becoming impatient. If the exordium were too short, it would oblige the hearer to enter too soon into the matter without preparation enough; and excessive length would weary him; for it is with an auditor as with a man who visits a palace, he does not like to stay too long in the court, or first avenues, he would only view them transiently without stopping, and proceed as soon as possible to gratify his principal curiosity.
2. An exordium must be clear, and consequently disengaged from ail sorts of abstruse and metaphysical thoughts. It should be expressed in natural and popular terms, and not overcharged with matter. Indeed, as the auditors are neither enlivened nor moved yet, you must not expect of them at first a great degree of penetration and elevation, nor even a great attempt towards these, though they may be capable of them when they are animated. You must therefore, in an exordium, avoid all that can give pain to the mind, such as physical questions, long trains of reasoning, and such like. However, do not imagine, that, under pretence of great clearness, an exordium must have only theological maiter, or consist rather of words than things. This would be falling into the other
An exorciun, then, must contain matter capable of nourishing and satisfying the mind; to do which, it must be clear, easy to comprehend, and expresscd in a very natural manner.
3. Anexordium must be cool and grave. * Consequently no grand figures may be admitted, as apostrophes, violent exclamations, reiterated interrogations, nor, in a word, any thing that tends to give vehement emotions to the hearers: for as the discourse must be accommodated to the state of the hearer, he, in the beginning, being cool, and free from agitations, the speaker ought to be so too. No wise man will approve exordiums full of enthusiasms and poetical raptures, full of impetuous or angry emotions, or of bold interrogations, or surprising paradoxes to excite admiration. You must, in the beginning, speak gently, remembering that your auditors are neither yet in heaven, nor in the air, nor at all elevated in their way thither, but upon earth, and in a place of worship.
* An e.xordium must be cool. Mr. Claude's rule is undoubtedly good in general, and his reason weighty.
4. An exordium, however, ought not to be so cool and grave, as not to be at the same time engaging and agreecble. There are three principal ends which a preacher should propose, namely, to instruct, to please, and to affect; but, of these three, that which should reign in an exordium is, to please. I own you should also aim to instruct and affect; but less to instruct than to please, and less still to affeci than to instruct. Indeed, if you can judiciously and properly introduce any thing tender into an exordium (especially on extraordinary occasions) Fou may to good purpose; but, be that as it may, the agreeable should reign in this part. You easily see by this that you must banish from the exordium all ill-natured censures, terrible threatenings, bitter reproaches, and, in general, all that savours of anger, contempt, hatred, or indifference, and, in short, every thing that has the air of quarrelling with the hearers. Their attention must not only be excited (you may sufficiently do so by censures and reproaches) but you must softly insinuate yourself into their esteem, so that they may not only not oppose what you say, but be well satisfied you are an honest and well-meaning man.*
This, however, is a rule sometimes dispensed with. Cicero begins an oration thus: “Quousque tandem abutere, Catalina, patientia Dostra? Quamdiu etiam furor iste tuus nos illudet? Quem ad finem sese effrenata jactabit audacia?”' &c. Perhaps an exordium somewhat more animated than usual may be proper on such occasions as the first and twelfth of the Skeletons published by the Editor.
Satisfy your kearers that you are a well-meaning man. Hence Quintilian so much insists on his orator's being a good man. The