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DEMOSTHENES AND MASSILLON.
Condensed and translated from the work of Dr. Theremin, entitled : “ Demosthenes and
Massillon.-A Contribution to the History of Eloquenco.” Berlin, 1845. By J. B. Lyman, M. A.
(LUDWIG Friedrich Franz Theremin was born in 1783 at Gramzow, in the northern part of Prussia, where his father was preacher in the French church. It may be well to state that, of the 800,000 protestants who fled from France at the time of the revocation of the edict of Nantes, some took refuge in the electorate of Brandenburg, where they enjoyed extensive civil privileges. At Prenzlow, a few miles from the native place of the author, most of the inhabitants are said to be their descendants. Hence we conclude, that of these, the congregation to which the elder Theremin preached, was composed ; as also that in Berlin, to which Dr. Theremin himself was afterwards called to preach, might in part have been. He studied with his father and at the French gymnasium in Berlin, afterwards at the university in Halle, under the instructions of Dr. Knapp and the philologian and Homeric critic F. A. Wolf. He afterwards spent a year in Geneva, in preparation for the office of the ministry in the French church, and was ordained there in 1808. In 1810 he was called to the Werder church in Berlin, in place of the French preacher von Ancillon, descendant of one of the French protestants, and who had been appointed to the post of instructor of the present king, and was afterwards minister of State. In 1815 he was appointed preacher in the court VOL. VI. No. 21.
church and cathedral, where he accomplished his wish to preach in the German language. In 1824 he was appointed counsellor of the high consistory, and received a situation in the educational department of the ministry of ecclesiastical and medical affairs. And in 1840 he was appointed ordinary professor of theology in Berlin, in the department of Homiletics. He died in 1846.
“Theremin," says the Conversations-Lexicon der Gegenwart of 1841, “is one of the most distinguished living preachers, and is so much the greater, the more he possesses this character according to the homiletic principles which he has himself established. For him eloquence' is 'a virtue;' an expression which he has adopted as the main title of his work upon the fundamental principles of systematic rhetoric,' 2d ed. Berlin, 1837.” In this work the author seeks to establish his principle, that eloquence is a virtue,' from the consideration of the aim which it pursues; that it has a purpose without itself; that it aims to produce a change in the dispositions or the actions of men, in the various relations of social life. Hence eloquence, as, for example, in an oration of Demosthenes, is interwoven with and cannot be separated from the circumstances of the times.
When an ancient orator arose to address an audience his eloquence was an action, and merited the name none the less and was none the less powerful for making use of speech instead of weapons. But as all activity of man in his relations must be guided by moral principles, the exercise of eloquence, which is no other than such an activity, can be subjected to no other than moral laws. The object of inquiry then is, what are the laws, according to which a free being may influence other free beings ? A question which can be answered only from an ethical point of view. Considered in this light eloquence would belong to one of the highest qualities in man. Not that a certain degree of moral perfection suffices for the production of eloquence and renders all else superfluous, which it is accustomed to appropriate to itself from art, learning and science ; but that it is reserved for the ethical law to arrange and determine that, which eloquence derives from these various departments. This is precisely what is demanded of a fundamental principle; and it is the ethical law, that determines wbere, how and in what measure each of the various means necessary to the orator are to be applied. So that eloquence, in all its various forms, is nothing more than the development of the moral impulse; and applied to pulpit oratory, the author remarks in another place, that the inner life of faith is the only source of sacred eloquence.
“ As, in this work, the author derives all skill in following the essential laws of rhetoric, and hence all sure results of eloquence, from 1849.]
Early Life of Demosthenes.
the character, morally good, of the orator; so in his own preaching, and in his address, which satisfies, warms, and carries away the hearer, but without awakening indefinite emotions, we feel that it is his own participation in such effects, that it is love in the preacher, which constitutes the living fountain of his preaching, a love founded upon the gospel and personal experience of its power. The fresh effusions of his feeling and his zeal, without losing their power, are ruled by a delicate tact, formed after modern and ancient models, and by a circumspection, which, combined with a genuine desire to produce a result in the minds of his hearers, becomes an effort of love. These qualities appear not only in his sermons, but also in various other forms, as in his · Evening Hours,"2 a collection of poems, dialogues and theological treatises ; but especially in his treatise, full of heart and spirit, entitled Adelbert's Confessions. His work, published in 1823, • The Doctrine of the Kingdom of God,'4 shows what appeared to him the highest idea in his Christian convictions.”
In the work before us the author presents two distinguished orators, the one from the ancient, the other from the modern world ; the one in political, the other in religious life ; but, as the author observes, alike in this, that they both appeared in an age of decline ; and both set their faces against the degeneracy of the times.- Tr.]
As the father of Demosthenes was an armorer, the son in a sense continued his profession by forging swords of speech. He was born 385 B. C.5 Losing his father in his seventh year, his guardians squandering his inheritance, feeble in his bodily structure, absenting himself from the gymnastic exercises of the Athenian youth, stammering in his speech, we may suppose him to have lived, in a great measure, apart from his fellows. A condition not so unfavorable, as it might seem, to the training of an orator; it affords him opportunity to collect the force of his character, which might otherwise be dispersed. And feeling himself separated from society, the desire might be stronger to influence it by the power of his thoughts and words.
His sermons have been published in eight volumes, under various titles, as : Das Kreuz Christi (the Cross of Christ), 3 vols. Berlin, 1829 ; Zeugnisse von Christo in einer bewegten Zeit (Testimonies of Christ in an age of agitation). Berlin, 1832.
? Abendstanden, 3 vols. Berlin, 1833–39.
5 The accounts are various concerning the year of his birth. We have preferred that which offers the fewest difficulties, in reference to his oratorical development and the events of his after life.