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few judges, but to a large assembly. He is not afraid of interruption. He chooses his subject at leisure; and has all the assistance of the most accurate premeditation. The disadvantages, however, which attend the eloquence of the pulpit, are not inconsiderable. The preacher, it is true, has no contention with an adversary ; but debate awakens genius, and excites attention, His subjects, though noble, are trite and common. They are become so fauniliar to the public ear, that it requires no ordinary genius in the preacher to fix attention. Nothing is more difficult than to bestow on what is common the grace of nov, elty. Beside, the subject of the preacher usually confines him to abstract qualities, to virtues and vices; whereas, that of other popular speakers leads them to treat of persons; which is gen. eraly more interesting to the hearers, apd occu. pies more powerfully the imagination. We are taught by the preacher to detest only the crime; by the pleader to detest the criminal, Hence it happens, that, though the number of moderately good preachers is great, so few have arrived at eminence. Perfection is very distant from mod. ern preaching. The object, however, is truly noble, and worthy of being pursued with zeal.
To excel in preaching, it is necessary to have a fixed and habitual view of its object. This is to persuade men to become good. Every ser, mon ought therefore to be a persuasive. oration, It is not to discuss some abstruse point, that the preacher ascends the pulpit. It is not to teach His hearers something new, but to make them hetter; to give them at once clear views and persuasive impressions of religious truths.
The principal characteristics of pulpit eloquence, as distinguished from the other kinds of public speaking, appear to be these two, gravity and warmth. It is neither easy nor common to unite these characters of eloquence. The grave, when it is predominant, becomes a dull uniform solemnity. The warm, when it wants gravity, borders on the light and theatrical. A proper upion of the two, forms that character of preaching, which the French call Onction; that affecting, penetrating, and interesting manner, which flows from a strong sense in the preacher of the importance of the truths he delivers, and an earnest desire that they may make full impression on the hearts of his hearers.
A sermon, as a particular species of composition, requires the strictest attention to unity. By this we mean that there should be some main point to which the whole tenour of the sermon shall refer. It must not be a pile of different subjects heaped upon each other; but one object must predominate through the whole. Hence, however, it must not be understood, that there should be no division or separate heads in a discourse; nor that one single thought only should be exhibited in different points of view. Unity is not to be understood in so limited a sense ; it admits some variety; it requires only that union and connexion be so far preserved, as to make the whole concur in some one impression on the mind. Thus, for instance, a preacher may employ several different arguments to enforce the love of God; he may also inquire into the causes of the decay of this virtue ; still one great object is presented to the mind. But, if because
his text says,
" He that loveth God must love his brother also," he should therefore mix in the same discourse, arguments for the love of God, and for the love of our neighbour, he would grossly offend against unity, and leave a very confused impression on the minds of his hearers.
Sermons are always more striking, and generally more useful, the more precise and particular the subject of them is. Unity can never be so perfect in a general, as in a particular subject. General subjects, indeed, such as the excellency, or the pleasures of religion, are often chosen by young preachers, as the most showy, and the ea. siest to be handled; but these subjects, produce not the highest effects of preaching. Attention is much more commanded, by taking some particular view of a great subject, and employing, on that, the whole force of argument and eloquence. To recommend some one virtue, or inveigh against a particular vice, affords a subject not deficient in unity or precision. But, if that virtue or vice be considered as assuming a particular aspect in certain characters, or certain situations in life, the subject becomes still more interesting. The execution is more difficult, but the merit and the effect are higher.
A preacher should be cautious not to exhaust his subject; since nothing is more opposite to persuasion, than unnecessary and tedious fulness. There are always some things which he may suppose to be known, and some which require only brief attention. If he endeavour to omit nothing which his subject suggests, he must unavoidably encumber it and diminish its force.
To render his instructions interesting to his
hearers should be the grand object of every. preacher. He should bring home to their hearts the truths which he inculcates; and make each; suppose himself particularly addressed.
He should avoid all intricate reasonings; avoid expressing himself in general, speculative propositions; or laying down practical truths in an abstract, metaphysical manner. A discourse ought to be carried on in the strain of direct address to the audience; not in the strain of one writing an essay, but of one speaking to a multitude, and studying to connect what is called application, or what immediately refers to practice, with the doctrinal parts of the sermon.'
It is always highly advantageous to keep in view the different ages, characters, and conditions of men,
and to accommodate directions and exhortations to each of these different. classes. Whenever you advance what touches a man's character or is applicable to his circumstances, you are sure of his attention. No study is more necessary for a preacher than the study of human life, and of the human heart. To discover a man to himself in a light, in which he never saw his character before, produces a wonderful effect: Those serinons, though the most difficult in composition, are not only the most beautiful, but also the most useful, which are founded on the illustration of some peculiar character, or remark, able piece of history in the sacred writings; by pursuing which we may trace, and lay open some of the most secret windings of the human heart. Other topics of preaching are become trite; but this is an extensive field which hitherto has been little explored, and possesses all the advantages of being curious, new, and highly useful. Bishop Butler's sermon on the character of Balaam is an example of this kind of preaching
Fashion, which operates so extensively on human manners, has given to preaching, at different times, a change of character. This however is a torrent, wbich swells to day, and subsides tomorrow. Sometimes poetical preaching is fashionable ; sometimes philosophical. At one time it must be all pathetic; at another all argumentative; as some celebrated preacher has set the example. Each of these modes is very defectire; and he, who conforms himself to it, will both confine and corrupt his genius. Truth and good sense are the sole basis, on which he can build with safety. Mode and humour are feeble and unsteady. No example should be servilely imitated. From various examples the preacher may collect materials for improvement; but servility of imitation extinguishes all genius, or rather proves entire want of it.
CONDUCT OF A DISCOURSE IN ALL ITS PARTS.
INTRODUCTION, DIVISION, NARRATION, AND EXPLICATION.
Having already considered what is peculiar to each of the three great fields of public speaking, popular assemblies, the bar and the pulpit; we shall now treat of what is common to them all, and explain the conduct of a discourse or oration in general.
The parts which compose a regular oration, are these six; the exordium or introduction; the