Images de page
PDF
ePub

sophistry than the discovery of truth. Its forms of argumentation in mood and figure carry too much artifice, not to say mechanism, in the very front of them, to suit the free and disengaged manner of the "orator, in whom every thing ought to appear perfectly

natural and easy, and nothing that looks like contrivance or insidious design. But though the logician's manner is not to be copied by the public speaker, his art will be of use, sometimes in furnishing topics of argument, often in suggesting hints to assist in refutation. But true logic, it must be acknowledged, is best studied not in a sholastic system, but in the writings of the most judicious and best reasoners on the various subjects supplied by history, science and philosoply. And with regard to language, as it is the English alone with which the preachers in this country, a very few excepted, are concerned as public speakers, they ought not only to study its structure and analogy in our best grammarians, but endeavour to familiarize themselves to its idiom, and to acquire a sufficient stock of words and a certain facility in using them, by an acquaintance with our best English authors. We have the greater need of this, as in this part of the island we labour under some special disadvantages, which, that our compositions may be more extensively useful, it is our duty to endeavour to surmount.

As to the rhetorical art itself, in this particular the moderns appear to me to have made hardly any advance or improvement upon the ancients. I can say, at least, of most of the performances in the way of institute, which I have had an opportunity of reading on this subject, either in French or English, every

thing valuable is servilely copied from Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian, in whose writings, especially Quintilian's Institutions, and Cicero's books de inventione, those called ad Herennium, and his dialogues De oratore, every public speaker ought to be conversant. To these it will not be amiss to add Longinus on the sublime, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and some others. · And as, in every art, the examples of eminent performers will be found to the full as instructive to the student, as the precepts laid down by the teacher, antiquity does here at least furnish us with the best models in the orations of Cicero in Latin, and in those of Æschines and Demosthenes in Greek. Of modern authors considered in both views, as teachers of the art, and as performers, I would recommend what Rollin and Fenelon have written on the subject, the sermons, and also the lectures on eloquence * lately published by the ingenious and truly eloquent Dr. Blair ; to which give me leave to add the sermons of my amiable and much lamented friend Mr. Farquhar, which though no other than fragments, having been left unfinished by the author, who appears to have had no view to publication, and though consequently less correct in point of language, are on account of the justness of the sentiments, and the affecting warmth with which they are written, highly admired by persons of taste and discernment. †

* Dr. Campbell's Lectures on Pulpit Eloquence, were composed and delivered before the publication of Dr. Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric. The recommendation as above was added to the original manuscript after perusing the lectures of his friend Dr. Blair.

+ Here the author introduced for his second lecture the tenth chapter of the first book of his Philosophy of Rhetoric, entitled “ The different kinds of public speaking in use among the moderns, compared, with a view to their different advantages in respect of eloquence.” In that chapter there are several things highly worthy of the attention of the preacher.

LECTURE II.

Of the Sentiment in Pulpit Discourses.

I AM now to consider the train of sentiment, the elo. cution, and the pronunciation, that are best adapted to the pulpit. Of these things I only mean at first to take a more general and cursory survey, and make such remarks on each, as will hold almost universally of all the instructions given from the pulpit, whatever the particular subject be. As to those which may suit the different sorts of sermons and other discourses to be employed by the preacher, I shall have occasion afterwards to take notice of them, when I come to inquire into the rules of composition, worthy the attention of the christian orator, and to mark out the different kinds, whereof this branch of eloquence is susceptible.

I begin at this time with what regards the sentiments. Let it be observed, that I here use the term sentiments in the greatest latitude for the sense or thoughts. I mean thereby what may be considered as the soul of the discourse, or all the instruction of whatever kind, that is intended to be conveyed by means of the expression into the minds of the hearers. Perhaps the import of the word will be more exactly ascertained by saying, it is that in any original performance, which it behoves a translator to retain in his version into another language, whilst the expression is totally changed. Thus (to preserve the metaphor of soul and body already adopted) we may say, that a discourse in being translated undergoes a sort of transmigration. The same soul passes into a different body. For if the ideas, the sense, the information conveyed to the hearers or readers be not the same in the version, as in the original performance, the translation is not faithful. Now all that regards the soul or sense may be distributed into these four different forms of communication, namely, narration, explanation, reasoning and moral reflection. This last is sometimes by way of eminence called sentiment.

To the first of these, narration, there will be pretty frequent occasion of recourse, both for the illustration of any point of doctrine or portion of scripture where. with the subject happens to be connected, and also for affecting the hearers in a way suitable to the particular aim of the discourse. And indeed it often happens, that nothing is better adapted to this end, than an apposite passage of history properly related. But what are the rules, it will be asked, by the due observance of which propriety in this matter may be attained ? One of those most commonly recommended is to be brief. But this rule needs explanation, as there is nothing we ought more carefully to avoid than a cold uninteresting conciseness, which is sometimes the consequence of an excessive desire of brevity. Brevity in relating, as in every thing else, is only so far commendable, as it is rendered compatible with answering all the ends of the relation. Where these are not answered, through an affectation of being very nervous

A nar

and laconic, comprehending much in little, the narra-
tion ought not to be styled brief, but defective. In
strictness, the relation ought to contain enough, and
neither more nor less. But what is enough? That
can be determined only by a proper attention to the
end for which the narration was introduced.
rative may contain enough to render the story and its
connection intelligible to the hearer, yet not enough
to fix his attention and engage his heart, and may
therefore be justly chargeable with a faulty conciseness.
But if this extreme ought to be carefully guarded
against, it well deserves your notice, that the contrary,
and no less dangerous, extreme of prolixity, by enter-
ing into a detail too minute and circumstantial, ought
with equal care to be avoided. If, in consequence of
the first error, the hearer's mind remains unsatisfied,
in consequence of the second, it is cloyed. Both faults
can be avoided only by such a judicious selection of
circumstances, as at once excludes nothing essential to
the purposes of perspicuity and connection, or condu-
cive to the principal scope of the narration, and in-
cludes nothing, that in the respects aforesaid can be
deemed superfluous. Such is every circumstance that
can be denominated remote, trivial, or necessarily im-
plied in the other circumstances mentioned. But to
assist the preacher in conducting such narratives, when
pertinent, nothing will serve so well for a model, as the
historical part of sacred writ. No where else will he find
such simplicity, as brings what is said to the level of the
meanest capacity, united with such dignity, as is suf-
ficient to engage the attention of the highest. Passages
of scripture-history, . when they happen to coincide
avith the speaker's view, are much preferable to those

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »