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5. The whole of the exordium must be naturally connected with all the matter of the text. I say first the whole of the exordium; for great care must be taken to put nothing there foreign to your subject: therefore the best exordiums are those which are composed of two propositions, the first of which is naturally and immediately connected with the second, and the second naturally and immediately with the text. Each of these propositions may be either proved or amplified; but the last must always conduct you with ease to the subject in question, nor must the first be very distant. According to this maxim, all exordiums must be condemned, which, instead of leading you into the text, make you, as it were, tumble from a precipice into it, which is intolerable. Those also are to be condemned which conduct to the text by many long circuits, that is, by many propositions chained together, which is certainly vicious, and can only fatigue the hearer. I add, in the second place, the exordium must be connected with the whole matter of the text. It ought not merely to relate to one of it parts, (or to one view only, if you intend to consider it in different views) but to all. One of the principal uses of an exordium is to prepare the mind of the hearer for the matter to be discussed. If, therefore, the exordium refer only to one of its parts, or to one view only, it will prepare the mind of the hearer for that one part, for that one view only, and not for the rest.
6. Anexordium must be simple. We would not entirely banish figures: on the contrary, we would always employ such as may render the discourse pleasant and agreeable: but pompous and magnificentexpressions must beavoided, as far as ihe things spoken will permit. Do not use a style too elevated, bordering on bombast-nor periods too harmonious-nor overstrained allegories—nor even metaphors too common or too bold; for indeed the hearer's mind, yet cool and in its natural state, can bear nothing of this kind.
whole first chapter of his twelfth book is spent in proving the necessity of this; and, if this be so needful at the bar, how much more so is it in the pulpit! His conclusion is enough to make a Christian minister blush. “ Men had better be born dumb, and even destitute of reg. son, than pervert those gifts of Providence to pernicious purposes. Mutos enim nasci, et egere omni ratione satius fuisset, quam providentiæ munera in mutuam perniciem convertere." Quint. lib. xii.c.i. 7. An exordium must not be common. As this is a rule much abused, it will be needful to explain it. By a common exordium, I do not mean an exordium which will suit many texts, for if the texts are parallel, and the subject be managed with the same views, and in the same circumstances, what occasion is there to compose different exordiums? By a common exordium, I mean, in the first place, one taken from trivial things, and which have been said over and over again; these the people already know, and your labour will be infallibly thrown away. Such are exordiums taken from comparisons of the sun-of kings -of conquerors—of the ancient Romans, &c.-or from some histories of the Old Testament, which have been often repeated—or of some well-known types, as the Israelites' passage through the Red Sea-and many more of the same kind. In the second place, I mean, by a common or general exordium, one which may be alike applied to two texts of different matter, or to two contrary interpretations of the same text. It is in this sense that common exordiums are vicious and distasteful.
8. Even in metaphorical or figurative texts it is quite puerile to make an exordium join the text by a metaphor; for, whatever ingenuity there may seem to be in it
, it is certain, there is no taste, no judgment discovered in the practice; and, however it may pass in college deelama. tions, it would appear too trifling in the pulpit. The exordium, then, must be connected with the text by the matter itself, that is, not by the figure, but by the subject intended to be conveyed by the figure. I would not, however, forbid the joining of the exordium to the text sometimes by the figure, provided it be done in a chaste and prudent manner.
Let us give one example. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hatk eternal life. John vi. 54. An ex. ordium to a sermon from this text may be taken from the idea which Holy Scripture teaches us to form of our conversion, as if it were a N ew birth, which begins a new life—that, for this purpose, it speaks of a new man, a new heaven, which illuminates, and a new earth, which supports him—that, attributing to this new man the same senses, which nature has formed in us, as sight, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting, it attributes also to him objects proportioned to each of these mystical senses, and ascribes to them effects like those which our senses produce by their natural operations. It tells us, that our eyes contemplate the celestial light, which illuminates and guides us in the ways of righteousness—that our ears hear the voice of God, who calls us, and who, by these means, makes us obey our vocation. It tells us that the Gospel is a savour of life, which communicates salvation to us. And, finally, it attributes to us a mouth to eat the flesh, and drink the blood of the Son of God, in order to nourish us to life eternal. It is this last expression which Jesus Christ has made use of in the sixth of John, and which says in my text, He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life.
This exordium joins itself to the text by the figure made use of in the text, but in such a manner as not to be chargeable with affectation or witticism; for it is by a serious reflection on the Scripture use of the figure, acknowledging it to be a figure, and preparing the hearer to attend to the explication.
To these rules I subjoin a word or two on the vices of exordiums. 1. There are some preachers who imagine it a fine thing to take exordiums from the persons of their bearers, or the circumstances of times, places, general affairs, or news of the world: but I believe this is altogether a vicious method, and should never be used but on extraordinary occasions. First, there is too much affectation in it. Is it not a vain parade to begin a discourse with things which have no relation to the matter? it is certainly contrary to the chastity and modesty of a Christian pulpit. Secondly, exordiums of this sort are usually pulled in by the head and shoulders. How should it be otherwise, when the articles of which they are composed, have, if any, only, a very distant relation to the text? By such means you defeat the principal design of an exordium, which is to prepare the hearers' minds, and to conduct them insensibly to the subject. And, finally, it is very difficult in such exordiums to avoid saying impertinencies; for what, in a public discourse, can be more indelicate, than to speak of yourself, or hearers, or times, of news? In my opinion, such exordiums ought to be entirely rejected.
2. You must also, for the most part, reject exordiums taken from profane history, or what they call the apoph. thegms of illustrious men. This method savours too much of the college, and is by no means in the taste of pious, well-bred men. Alexander, Cæsar, Pompey, all the great names of antiquity, have no business to ascend the pulpit; and if they are not suffered now-a-days, either in orations in the senate, or in pleas of the bar, much less ought they to be allowed in Christian sermons. It may not be amiss if they appear now and then in the discussion, or in the application; but even there we ought to see them but seldom, not oftener than once a year at most: but to introduce them at the beginning of a sermon is intolerable. I say much the same of citations from profane authors; they must be forborne, unless it be something so particular, so agreeable, and so apt to the text, as to carry its own recommendation along with it. Of this kind, I think, was the exordium of a sermon on this text: So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. It was taken from Plutarch, who relates, that Alcibiades called one day to see Peri. cles, and was told by his domestics that their master was busy in preparing his accounts to lay before the Republic: to which he immediately replied, Instead of labouring to make up his accounts, it would be incomparably better to render himself not accountable to them at all. It was added, that this is the notion of almost all wicked men, who, being ignorant of God their governor, and feeling their consciences charged with a thousand crimes, think only of eluding the judgment of God, and of avoiding that account which they will one day Be obliged to give to the Master of all creatures--that if only one man, or two men, were in question, the attempt of Alcibiades might succeed; but as it was God with whom they had to do, it must be worse than foolish to imagine his tribunal could be avoided that there was no other way to take, than to prepare to give an account to God; nor any advice more reasonable, than to labour continually to do it well—and that, for this purpose, even self-interest should oblige us to have recourse to God to assist us by his grace—this is what the church aims to teach us in the words of the prophet, -So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
In general, the best exordiums are taken from theology; for as, on the one hand, they have always more relation to the matter of the text, so, on the other, they much better prepare the hearers' minds, being more grave, and free from the puerile pedantries of the college.
In order to compose an exordium, after you have well considered the senses of the text, and observed what are the principal matters which ought to enter into the dis. cussion, and after you have made ihe division, endeavour to reduce the whole to one common idea, and then choose some other idea naturally connected with that common idea, either immediately, or by means of another. If it be immediately connected with the subject, endeavour to reduce it to one proposition, which may be cleared and proved as you go on; or if it have parts, which require separate explications and proofs, it must be managed so as to include them; and, finally, by the natural connexion of that proposition with the discussion, enter into the text. If the proposition be connected with the text only re. motely, then establish the first, pass on to the second, and so proceed from the second to the text.*
Exordiums may be taken from almost all the same topics as observations, that is, from genus, species, contraries, &c. for there are but few good exordiums which might not go into the discussion, under the title of general ob. servations. Of such observations, that must be chosen for an exordium which is least essential, or least necessary to the discussion, and which, besides, is clear, agreeable, and entertaining. A comparison may sometimes be employed in an exordium, but not often; nor must trivial comparisons be used, which all the world know, or which
* Connect the parts of the exordium with the subject of the discourse. “ Quoties autem proæmio fucrimus usi, tum sive ad ex. positionem transibimus, sive protinus ad probationem, id debebit in principio postremum esse, cui commodissimè jungi initium sequentium poterit. Ut non abruptè cadere in narrationem, ita non obscure transcendere est optimum. Si verò longior, sequetur, ac perplexa magis expositio, ad eam ipsam præparandus judex erit: ut Cieero sæpius, sed hoc præcipuè loco secit: Paulo longius exordium rei demonstranda petam; quod quæso, judices, ne molestè pati. amini. Principiis enini cognitis, multo facilius extrema intelligetis."-Pro Cluent. Quint. Inst. lib. iy. de Exordia