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SELECTIONS IN PROSE
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faults till they are committed. Reason is but a weak antagonist when headlong passion dictates : in all such cases, we should arm one passion against another; it is with the human mind as in nature, from the mixture of two opposites, the result is most frequently neutral tranquillity. Those who attempt to reason us out of our follies begin at the wrong end, since the attempt naturally presupposes us capable of reason; but to be made capable of this is one great point of the cure.
There are but few talents requisite to become a popular preacher; for the people are easily pleased, if they perceive any endeavours in the orator to please them : the meanest qualifications will work this effect, if the preacher sincerely sets about it. Perhaps little, indeed, very little more is required, than sincerity and assurance; and a becoming sincerity is always certain of producing a becoming assurance.
“ If you wish me to weep you must first weep yourself”, is so trite a quotation, that it almost demands an apology to repeat; yet, though all allow the justice of the remark, how few do we find put it in practice! Our pulpit orators, with the most faulty bashfulness, seem impressed rather with an awe of their audience than with a just respect for the truths they are about to deliver : they, of all professors, seem the most bashful, who have the greatest right to glory in their commission.
• ON PUBLIC PREACHING.
In public addresses to an audience, the great end of reformation is most effectually promoted ; because all the powers of voice and action, all the arts of eloquence, may be brought to give their assistance. But some of those arts depend on gifts of nature, and cannot be attained by any strength of genius or understanding; even where nature has been liberal of those necessary requisites, they must be cultivated by much practice, before the proper exercise of them can be acquired. Thus, a public speaker may have a voice
that is musical and of great compass ; but it requires much time and labor to attain its just modulation, and that variety of flexion and tone which a pathetic discourse requires. The same difficulty attends the acquisition of that propriety of action, that power over the expressive features of the countenance, particularly of the eyes, so necessary to command the hearts and passions of an audience.
It is usually thought that a preacher, who feels what he is saying himself, will naturally speak with that tone of voice and expression in his countenance, that best suits the subject, and which cannot fail to move his audience: thus it is said that a person under the influence of fear, anger, or sorrow, looks and speaks in the manner naturally expressive of these emotions. This is true in some measure; but it can never be supposed that any preacher will be able to enter into his subject with such real warmth upon every occasion. Besides, every prudent man will be afraid to abandon himself so entirely to any impression, as he must do to produce this effect. Most men, when strongly affected by any passion or emotion, have some peculiarity in their appearance, which does not belong to the natural expression of such an emotion. If this be not properly corrected, a public speaker, who is really warm and animated with his subject, may nevertheless make a very ridiculous and contemptible figure. It is the business of art, to show nature in her most amiable and graceful forms, and not with those peculiarities in which she appears in particular instances; and it is this difficulty of properly representing nature, that renders the eloquence and action, both of the pulpit and the stage, acquisitions of such difficult attainment.
ON THE ELOCUTION OF THE PULPIT.
I CANNOT forbear regretting here, that a matter of such vast importance to preaching as delivery, should be so generally neglected or misunderstood. A common apprehension prevails, indeed, that a strict regard to these rules would be deemed theatrical; and the dread perhaps, of incurring this imputation, is a restraint upon many. But is it not possible to obtain a just and expressive manner, perfectly consistent with the gravity of the pulpit, and yet quite distinct from the more passionate, strong, and diversified action of the theatre ? And is it not possible to hit off this manner so easily and naturally, as to leave no room for just reflection ? An affair this, it must be owned, of the utmost delicacy; in which we shall probably often miscarry, and meet with abundance of censure at first. But still, I imagine, that through the regulations of taste, the improvements of experience, the corrections of friendship, the feelings of piety, and the gradual mellowings of time, such an elocution may be acquired, as is above delineated; and such as, when acquired, will make its way to the hearts of the hearers, through their ears and eyes, with a delight, to both, that is seldom felt; whilst, contrary to what is commonly practised, it will appear to the former, the very language of nature, and present to the latter, the lively image of the preacher's soul. Were a taste for this kind of elocution to take place, it is difficult to say how much the preaching art would gain by it. Pronunciation would be studied, an ear would be formed, the voice would be modulated, every feature of the face, every motion of the hands, every posture of the body would be brought under right management. A graceful, and correct, and animated expression in all these would be ambitiously sought after ; mutual criticisms and friendly hints would be universally encouraged ; light and direction would be borrowed from every quarter, and from every age. The best models of antiquity would in a particular manner be admired, surveyed, and imitated. The sing-song voice, and the see-saw gestures, if I may be allowed to use those expressions, would, of course, be exploded ; and in time, nothing would be admitted, at least approved, among speakers, but what was decent, manly, and truly excellent in the kind. Even the people themselves would contract, insensibly, a growing relish for such a manner; and those preachers would at last be in chief repute with all, who followed nature, overlooked themselves, appeared totally absorbed in the subject, and spoke with real propriety and pathos, from the immediate impulse of truth and virtue.
REMARKS ON PREACHING.
The Preacher, above all other public speakers, ought to labor to enrich and adorn, in the most masterly manner, his addresses to mankind; his views being the most important. What great point has the player to gain? Why, to draw an audience to the theatre. The pleader at the bar, if he lays before the judges and jury the true state of the case, and gains the cause of his client, which may be an estate, or at most a life, he accomplishes his end. And of the speaker in a legislature, the very utmost that can be said, is that the good of his country may, in a great measure, depend upon his tongue.
But the infinitely important object of preaching, is the reformation of mankind, upon which depends their happiness in this world, and throughout the whole of their being. And here, if the preacher possesses talents and industry, what a field of eloquence is open before him! The universal and most important interests of mankind ! far beyond those for which the thunder of Demosthenes rolled in Athens : far beyond those for whieh Cicero shook the senate-house of Rome. It is for him to rouse his auditors to a valiant resistance of the most formidable slavery, of the tyranny which is set up in man's own bosom; and to exhort his hearers to maintain the liberty, the life, and the hopes of the whole human race for ever.
Of what consequence is it then, that the art of preaching be carried to such perfection, that all may be drawn to places of public instruction, and that those who attend may receive benefit! And if so important a part of preaching be delivery, how necessary must be the study of delivery! That delivery is one of the most essential parts of public instruction, is manifest from this, that very indifferent matter well delivered, will make a considerable impression ; while bad utterance never fails to defeat the whole effect of the noblest composition ever produced.
While exhorbitant appetite, and unruly passion within, while evil solicitation, with alluring example without; while these invite and