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Faith as a Requisite to Christian Eloquence.


intellect grappled an important truth, Robert Hall became distinguished for the manifest absorption of self in the greatness of his subjects. And this was one secret of his power. It was not so much the dissenting minister of Cambridge that Brougham and Jeffries ran to hear, as it was truth itself, moving in measured cadences, with irresistible cogency of argument, authority and emotion, right onward to its results.

The importance of this self-forgetfulness is proportionable to the dignity of the subject. The themes of the pulpit are the most vast, the most awful ever addressed to man. Hence apparent self-consciousness in the preacher betrays insincerity, and is absolutely intolerable.

Too much, we are aware, is expected of the sacred orator. No preacher could be constantly equal to the immensity of his themes and live. The outward physical machinery would be consumed by the excessive internal heat. Nor can he ever be satisfied with his own perceptions or feelings. But still a singular degree of abandonment to the subject is required of him and must exist. He who will not or cannot attain it, let him follow the plough or measure tape behind the counter, but let him not mount the rostrum, and above all the sacred desk.

And why should not the preacher abandon himself to his subject? In whose presence does he speak? First, in the presence of the Almighty, whose minister he is. Second, in the presence of miserable men whom he is commissioned to accuse. Third, of Jesus Christ who suffered death for them all and whose mercy he is to announce and enforce! Consider the awful circumstances in which he speaks-heaven glittering from afar, hell rumbling beneath, sinners hesitating, the time for decision coming to an end! Can one think of self, of his reputation, of the applause his demonstrations, his figures, his balanced sentences, his fine intonations are to secure? Shall he sue for flattery, or canvass for votes, or shrink from the breath of censure? Remember he is the minister of God Almighty to the dying men whom he addresses.

In this connection we see the necessity of faith. We speak of it now not as an essential to salvation, but as a requisite to Christian eloquence. When religious truth fades out of view, when themes of eternity, as awful verities, cease to stir the soul, something insincere, artificial, unreal, is suggested to the hearer, and the speaker finds himself lifeless and inefficient. Unbelief relaxes the nerves of oratory, and makes one an empty declaimer, VOL. IV. No. 14.


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instead of a powerful preacher. It requires the electricity of faith to produce sons of thunder.

It was this firm faith in the scriptural revelations, this vivid realization of the spiritual and the unseen, although of course never disconnected from divine influence, that gave the simple hearted Brainerd such irresistible power over the sons of the wilderness. Paul always spoke of eternal things as one who knew, and prophets uttered their terrific maledictions, and foretold coming glories, with the conviction of a conscious cer. tainty. Grasp the truth with the simple but gigantic faith of a patriarch; live in the atmosphere of the invisible when its night stars beam steadily upon the soul; converse with God like old John Bunyan, like the reformer Knox, like the paritan Shepard; penetrate eternity, by a living confidence in its revelations; looking up steadfastly into Heaven, like the martyr Stephen, see Jesus,—and there will be an earnestness, a reality, a power which, if attended also with appropriate evidences, few can resist.

With all these qualifications, force implies judgment. The true orator is known as well by what he does not say as by what he does say. He avoids vulgarities, extravagances, pom posities. He remembers the maxims, “ne quid nimis," and“ there is nothing beautiful which is not true.” He rejects the decayed flowers of rhetoric, and declines to encumber truth by excessive ornament. He eschews dead forms of words, cold conventionalities, and the cant of sect. Like the Moor of Venice he avoids “set phrase" and in the sincerity of passion, “a round unvarnished tale delivers." Of course his speech has a meaning. It has also a certain easy native beauty, naturalness and grandeur. It was intended for

. the heart," it comes from the heart, and goes to the heart." In nothing does the true orator offend, in nothing disgust, in nothing neutralize the magic of his emotions, or provoke the censure of the refined.

Some good preachers in other respects err here. They lack judgment. This appears not only in the arrangement of their thoughts, not only in mistaking what is appropriate to different times, occasions, connections, and audiences, but in logical incon. gruities, and uncomeliness of rhetorical costume. You will be interested, charmed; then comes a remark, so out of place, so vulgar, so shocking to a delicate taste, that you are offended and disgusted. What should we think of the Venus de Medici deformed by a crooked limb, or with an ugly wen upon her beauti1847.) The Influence of personal Character upon Eloquence. 267 ful neck? Or what would we say of the architect who should seriously reproduce the Parthenon with a country meeting-house steeple upon it? Could these objects, so beautiful in themselves, be seen, thus desecrated, without merriment or disgust? The same kind of fault prevails, in many a bold, off-hand orator who mistakes vulgarity for genius, and the shrinking of outraged sensibilities for the power of eloquence. Nothing is gained by bad taste in any direction, while the cultivated are offended. Audiences who listen to it and drink it in, are degraded by it, and if any good is done, it is at best but a billingsgate and tavern-slang piety which it produces. Delicacy, symmetry, beauty, are characteristics of the Christian religion. Our speech may be plain—no matter how plain,-unvarnished, unwrought, but it must be in accordance with the principles of taste, or it will lose its efficiency.

The force of speech depends also upon personal character. The ancients had a maxim, that no one could be eloquent but a good man. This is especially true of the pulpit How can one recommend goodness, earnestly, powerfully, successfully, and for a series of years, unless he possesses it? How can he impress upon us the beauty of holiness, the bliss of harmony and communion with God, the infinite value of the crucifixion, the ten. derness of Jesus, unless he has experienced it? Ignorance of what he utters will make his common places soulless, while the consciousness of a hollow heart paralyzes his spirit.

Besides, who does not know that on many subjects it is not so much what is said, as who says it? With what weight does a quo. tation from Milton or from Shakspeare, or a sentence from the farewell address of Washington, or an opinion from the great Ed. wards always fall! Yes, the simple opinion of some men is more powerful than the best logic and oratory of others. “Experience has convinced me,” says Demosthenes, “ that what is called the power of eloquence depends, for the most part, on the hearers.” All men are influenced by authority, by weight of character, by the confidence they have in those who address them. Neither vehement declamation, nor cogent reasoning, nor solemn tones, nor tears, can have influence with a congregation, if we are known to be other than men of integrity, men of truth, men of honor, men who are, in some measure, what they preach. In order to successful pulpit eloquence, (we speak now only in reference to oratory,) the orator must at least seem good; and the only way to seem good, taking life together, is to be so.

We have now gone through with all that we intended to say upon the first and second topics proposed for consideration. The ends of the pulpit have been described as having respect to the present and eternal welfare of man. Its means have been presented as truth eloquently enforced, or, in one word, Christian eloquence. The nature of eloquence has been illustrated by some of the great examples of ancient and modern times, taken from the bar, the senate, and the desk. Some of the conditions have been stated, on which the power of the pulpit depends, such as a well trained and well furnished mind, including continued study, both of a general and a particular character; a clear perception of one whole subject, with precise statements, conclusive demonstrations, and earnest conclusions; a deep feeling of the importance of what is delivered with self-forgetfulness in the utterance of truth and self-abandonment to its power; also faith, judgment and character.

It remains, in conclusion, and as a stimulus to effort, that we allude to some of the motives by which the American pulpit excites its orators to a fulfilment of their mission.

These are found in the truth, in its author, and in its objects.

In the truth. Every Christian minister is an apostle of the truth. His commission is the highest ever given." Is there a nobler work of God in the souls of men,” says Herder, " than the divine thoughts, impulses, aims, and energies which he sometimes imparts to one chosen man for the cultivation of a thousand?” (Herder's Spirit of Hebrew Poetry). "God himself is truth,says Milton, “in propagating which, as men display a greater integrity and zeal, they approach nearer to the similitude of God, and possess a greater portion of his love," (Milton's Second Defence, 926). And a wiser than Herder, a more sublime than Milton, exclaims : " How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion thy God reigneth,” (Isa. 52: 7). As ministers of Christ, we are entrusted with that whose value the whole material crea. tion does not equal. We are brought into partnership with God. As he spake stars and suns into existence by his word; so as coworkers together with him, we are to create, in the souls of men, new heavens and new earths, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Motives to exertion are found not only in the truth, but especially in its author. We all have heard of the ivory statue of Christ, lately exhibited in our principal cities. It is the work of a Geno

The Motives to Pulpit Oratory.

269 ese monk, who spent four years, day and night, in its execution. Having accidentally, or providentially, found an enormous block of ivory, which antiquarians of Italy have pronounced a relic of the antediluvian world, though practically ignorant of statuary, he felt himself impelled to attempt an image of the divine Christ. “Suddenly,” he said, “the inspiration came like a thought. He saw Christ on the cross-dead." The crucified vision was always before him. In giving it form, he sometimes labored twenty and even thirty hours together, till, under the influence of fasting and intense excitement, “a miraculous glory seemed to encircle the head of the figure, as he worked upon it.” In four years it was done; and what a work! We saw it in Boston some months ago; and what a sight! It can never be forgotten, but never can be described. There it was : our crucified Lord! His head bowed; every cord in the body tense, every muscle extended, every vein swollen. And what a countenance! In it, masculine grandeur combines with the softest beauty. You see “agony knit into the brows and frozen upon the lofty forehead." You see resignation, patience, dreadful endurance, love. Men look at it in silence, and unbidden tears flow down their cheeks.

It is not the statue but the original, not the ideal but the reality, who is designated the author of truth. We are preachers, not of the ivory, but of the Christ who liveth, and was dead. That great heart of tenderness beats in the centre of his kingdom, and that large eye of love is upon us. By generosity known only in heaven, he has become our Saviour. We are his friends, his disciples, his preachers. It is for him that we would seek to be eloquent! If a poor monk, intensely excited by the ideal, found sufficient motive in it to stimulate his incredible labors for years, till his ivory Christ was fashioned and presented to men, how should we labor earnestly, powerfully, justly to exhibit Christ, evidently set forth crucified before us, as the sinner's friend. If any. thing can rouse to effort, sustain toil, produce enthusiasm, it is to be a preacher of Christ.

We find our motives, also, in the objects of truth. Its objects are men, men of ruined greatness, great in ruins. The human soul! What thoughts, what capabilities, what feelings does it possess ! Created in the likeness of God, never dying, always expanding, the bliss of goodness flows through it like a river, or remorse burns it like a fire! It is broken, it is sick, it suffers. We are sent to “minister to minds diseased; to pluck from memory its rooted sorrows." We are to go and proclaim man's misery, to rake up

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