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and order in a christian society already established, affords a very good reason for this difference. But if teaching is a matter of so much consequence, and if the proper discharge of this duty is a matter of principal difficulty, it ought doubtless to employ a consider. able part
of the student's time and attention that he may be properly prepared for it. Indeed it
Indeed it may be said, that the study of the science of thcology is itself a preparation, and in part it no doubt is so, as it furnishes him with the materials ; but the materials alone will not serve his purpose, unless he has acquired the art of using them. And it is this art in preaching which I denominate christian or pulpit eloquence. To know is one thing; and to be capable of communicating knowledge is another.
I am sensible however, that there are many pious christians, who are startled at the name of eloquence when applied to the christian teacher ; they are disposed to consider it as setting an office, which in its nature is spiritual, and in its origin divine, too much on a footing with those which are merely human and secular. And this turn of thinking I have always found to proceed from one or other of these two causes; either from a mistake of what is meant by eloquence, or from a misapprehension of some passages of holy writ in relation to the sacred function. First, it arises from a mistaken notion of the import of the word. It often happens both among philosophers and divines that violent and endless disputes are carried on by adverse parties, which, were they to begin by settling a definition of the term whereon the question turns, would vanish in an instant. Were these people then, who appear to differ from us, on the propriety of employing eloquence, to give an explication of the ideas they comprehend under the term eloquence or oratory, we should doubtless get from them some such account as this, a knack, or artifice by which the periods of a discourse are curiously and harmoniously strung together, decorated with many flowery images, the whole entirely calculated to set off the speaker's art by pleasing the ear and amusing the fancy of the hearers, but by no means calculated either to inform their understandings or to engage their hearts. Perhaps those. people will be surprised, when I tell them, that commonly no discourses whatever, not even the homeliest, have less of true eloquence, than such frothy harangues, as perfectly suit their definition. If this, then, is all they mean to inveigh against under the name eloquence, I will join issue with them with all my heart. Nothing can be less worthy the study or attention of a wise man, and much more may this be said of a christian pastor, than such a futile acquisition as that above described. But if, on the contrary, nothing else is meant by eloquence, in the use of all the wisest and the best who have written on the subject, but that art or talent, whereby the speech is adapted to produce in the hearer the great end which the speaker has, or at least ought to have principally in view, it is impossible to doubt the utility of the study ; unless people will be absurd enough to question, whether there be any difference between speaking to the purpose and speaking from the purpose, expressing one's self intelligibly or unintelligibly, reasoning in a manner that is conclusive and satisfactory, or in such a way as can . convince nobody, fixing the attention and moving the
affections of an audience, or leaving them in a state perfectly listless and unconcerned.
But, as I signified already, there are prejudices against this study in the christian orator, arising from another source, the promises of the immediate influence of the divine spirit, the commands of our Lord to his disciples, to avoid all concern and solicitude on this article, and the example of some of the apostles, who disclaimed expressly the advantages resulting from the study of rhetoric, or indeed of any human art, or institute whatever. In answer to such objections, I must beg leave to ask, are we not in the promises of our Saviour, to distinguish those, which were made to his disciples, merely as .christians, or his followers in the way to the kingdom, from those made indeed to the same persons, but considered in the character of apostles, the promulgators of his doctrine among Jews and pagans, and the first founders of his church? Are we entitled to apply to ourselves those promises made to the apostles, or even the first christians, manifestly for the conviction and conversion of an infidel world? “ These signs,” says Christ, “shall follow them that believe : In my name, shall they cast out deyils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Do we now expect such signs to follow upon our faith? And is not the promise of immediate inspiration on any emergency (which is doubtless à miraculous gift as well as those above enumerated) to be considered as of the same nature, and given for the same end? And ought not all these precepts, to "which promises of this supernatural kind are annexed
as the reason, to be understood with the same restriction? When our Lord foretold his disciples, that they should be brought before kings and rulers for his name's sake, he adds, “Settle it in your hearts not to meditate before what you shall answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist.” It is manifest the obligation of the precept can only be explained by . a proper apprehension of the extent of the promise. But the truth is, that few or none, in these our days, would consider premeditation in such circumstances as either unlawful or improper. Who, even among those who inveigh most bitterly against the study of eloquence for the pulpit, does ever so much as pretend that we ought not to meditate, or so much as think, on any subject before we preach upon it? And yet the letter of the precept, nay and the spirit too, strikes more directly against particular premeditation, than against the general study of the art of speaking. It is more a particular application of the ast, than the art itself that is here pointed at.
And as to what the great apostle of the Gentiles hath said on this article, it will · serve, I am persuaded, to every attentive reader, as a confirmation of what has been advanced above, in regard to the true meaning of such promises and precepts, and the limitations with which they ought to be understood. Well might he renounce every art which man's wisdom teacheth, whose speech was accompani. ed with the demonstration of the spirit and of power ; that is, with those miraculous gifts, which were so admirably calculated to silence contradiction, and to convince the most incredulous. But the truth is, there is not one argument can be taken from those precepts
and examples, that will not equally conclude against all human learning whatsoever, as against the study of rhetoric. Because the apostles could preach to men of every nation without studying their language, in consequence of the gift of tongues with which they were supernaturally endowed, shall we think to convert strangers, with whose speech we are totally unacquainted, and not previously apply to grammars, and dexicons and other helps for attaining the language ? Or because Paul, as he himself expressly, tells us, received the knowledge of the gospel by immediate inspiration, shall we neglect the study of the scriptures and other outward means of instruction? There have been, I own, some enthusiasts who have carried the matter as far as this. And though hardly any person of the least reflection, would argue in such a manner now, it must be owned that the very same premises, by which any human art or institute in itself useful, is excluded, will equally answer the purposes of such fanatics in excluding all. And to the utility, and even importance of the rhetorical art, scripture itself bears testimony. Is it not mentioned by the sacred historian in recommendation of Apollos, that he was “an eloquent man,” as well as mighty in the scriptures? And is not his success manifestly ascribed, under God, to these adyantages? There is no mention of any supernatural gifts, which he could receive only by the imposition of the hands of an apostle'; and it appears from the history, that before he had any interview with the apostles, immediately after his conversion, he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. The very, words used by the inspired pénman are such as are