Images de page

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 devils; 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 a 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 art, 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 accompanied 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

[ocr errors]

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 lexicons 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, iş 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 advantages? 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 penman are such as are

[ocr errors]

familiar with rhetoricians in relation to the forensic eloquence, Ευτονως γαρ τοις Ιεδαιοις διακατήλεγχείο, Acriter, vehementer, magna contentione. Now though it is not permitted to us to reach the celestial heights of a Peter or a Paul, I see nothing to hinder our aspiring to the humbler attainments of an Apollos. But enough, and perhaps too much, for obviating objections, which I cannot allow myself to think, will have great weight with gentlemen, who have been so long employed in the study of the learned languages, and of the liberal arts and sciences. However, when one hath occasion to hear such arguments (if indeed they deserve to be called so) advanced by others, it may be of some utility to be provided with an answer.

The next point, and which is of the greatest consequence, is, In what manner this art or talent may be attained, at least as much of it as is suited to the business of preaching, and is on moral and religious subjects: best adapted to the ends of instruction and

per-: suasion? When I gave you a general sketch of my plan, I observed on this article that in a great measure the talents required in the preacher are such as are necessary to him in common with every other public speaker, whatever be the scene of his appearances, whether it be his lot to deliver his orations in the senate, at the bar, or from the pulpit. Now what the preacher must have in common with those of so many other and very different professions, it cannot be ex.. pected that here we should treat particularly, especially when it is considered how many other things have a preferable title to our notice. What indeed is pecu·liar in the eloquence of the pulpit will deserve a more particular consideration. But though we do not from

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

this place propose to give an institute of rhetoric, it will not be improper to give some directions in relation to the theory of it, and particularly to the reading both of ancient and modern authors, whence the general knowledge of the subject, which is too much neglected by theological students, may be had. When we consider the nature of this elegant and useful art with any degree of attention, we shall soon be convinced, that it is a certain improvement on the arts of grammar, and logic; on which it founds, and without which it could have no existence. On the other hand, without this, these arts would lose much of their utility and end, for it is by the art of rhetoric, that we are enabled to make our knowledge in language, and skill in reasoning, turn to the best account for the instruction and persuasion of others. " The wise in heart,” saith Solomon, “shall be called prudent, but the sweetness of the lips encreaseth learning*.”

Now the best preparation for an orator, on whatever kind of theatre he shall be called to act, is to understand thoroughly the discursive art, and to be well acquainted with the words, structure, and idiom of the language which he is to employ. By skill in the former, I do not mean being well versed in the artificial dialectic of the schools, though this, I acknowledge, doth not want its use, but being conversant in the natural and genuine principles and grounds of reasoning, whether derived from sense or memory, from comparison of related ideas, from testimony, experience, or analogy. School logic, as was well observed by Mr. Locke, is much better calculated for the detection of

* See the Philosophy of Rhetoric, vol. i. book 1. ch. iv. Qf the Relation which Eloquence bears to Logic and to Grammar.

[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »