« PrécédentContinuer »
numerous nor abstruse. We cannot say so much in regard to the comments and glosses of men. Yet it is an undoubted fact, that where the former have excited one controversy in the church, the latter have produced fifty. It must therefore be of importance to him, to be well assured that he is vindicating the great oracles of unerring wisdom, and not the precarious interpretations and glosses of fallible men; that he acts the part of the genuine disciple of Christ, and not the blind follower of a merely human guide. In the former case only, he defends the cause of christianity ; in the latter, he but supports the interest of a sect or faction. In that, he contends for the faith ; in this," he dotes about questions and strifes of words, vain janglings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and involving himself in oppositions of science falsely so called.” And that under this last class, the far greater part of our theological disputes are comprehended, even such as have been too often and too hotly agitated in the pulpit, is not to be denied. Such in particular are a great many of the doctrinal controversies, which different parties of protestants have with one another. They may with great propriety be styled aoyouaxual, an emphatic term of the apostle Paul; for they are not only wars with words, but wars merely about words and phrases, where there is no discernible, or at least, no material difference in the sense; and which, agreeably to the character he gives of them,
gender strifes, and minister idle disputes rather than godly edifying.” The second thing which the preacher ought to inquire into, before he engage in preaching controversy, is whether the false doctrine he means to refute has any number of partizans amongst his
hearers; or whether there be any immediate danger of their being seduced to that opinion. If otherwise, the introduction of such questions might possibly raise doubts where formerly there were none, and at any rate, unless managed with uncommon prudence and temper, have rather a tendency that is unfavourable to the christian spirit, and in narrow minds is apt to beget a sort of bitterness and uncharitableness, which these dignify in themselves with the name of zeal, though in their adversaries they can clearly see its malignity. At the same time, that I give these caveats against the abuse, I by no means deny the occasional expediency and use of controversy.
As to the fourth and last species of thought mentioned, moral reflection, or what is sometimes peculiarly denominated sentiment; there is much less hazard that in this we should exceed. Here the preacher (if he is at all judicious in his choice) runs less risk of either growing tiresome to the more improved part
of his audience, or unintelligible to those whose understandings have not been cultivated. In the former, the rational powers are addressed ; in this, the heart and the conscience. Indeed, I am far from thinking, that these two kinds of addresses may not often be happily blended together; particularly, when the subject relates to moral conduct, an address of the latter kind, if interwoven with a plain narrative, will frequently prove the most effectual means of removing unfavourable pre. possessions, engaging affection as well as satisfying reason and bringing her to be of the same party. It was a method often and successfully employed by our blessed Lord, when attacked by Jewish bigotry, on the extent that ought to be given to the love of our neighbour. The maxims of the Pharisees, like those of all bigots, of every age, nation and profession, were very illiberal, and measuring the goodness of the universal father, by their own contracted span, could not bear to think that those of a different nation, and still more those who differed in religious matters, could be comprehended under it. When attacked by these narrow hearted zealots, in what manner, I pray you, doth he silence contradiction, and gain every susceptible heart over to his side ? Not by subtle ratiocination on the beauty of virtue, or on the eternal and unalterable fit. ness of things; but by a simple story, by the parable of the compassionate Samaritan, in the conclusion of which he shows, that, even their own consciences being judges, to act agreeably to the more extensive explanation of the duty, was the more amiable part, and. consequently more worthy of their esteem and imitation. Again, when he would show, that even the profligate are not to be abandoned to despair, with what an amazing superiority doth he subdue the most unrelenting pharisaic pride by the parable of the prodigal? Who ever could so quickly dissipate the thickest clouds raised by inveterate prejudices and party-spirit, and render the only unequivocal standard of moral truth, the characters of the divine law engraven on the human heart, to all who are not wilfully blind, distinctly legible ? Could any the most acute and elaborate dissertation on moral rectitude, or the essential qualities and relations of things, have produced half the effect, even in point of conviction, as well as of feeling? How different his method from that of the ancient sophists? But not more different than their aims. Their aim was to make men talk fluently and plausi
bly on every subject: his, to make them think justly, and act uprightly.
So much shall suffice for what regards the sentiments or thoughts in general, that are adapted to the eloquence of the pulpit, whether narration, explanation, reasoning, or moral reflection. On this head, we were under a necessity of being briefer and more general, as it is here that a man's natural talents, genius, taste, and judgment have the greatest sway; and where nature has denied these talents, it is in vain to imagine that the defect can ever be supplied by art. Whereas the principal scope for the exertions of art and education is in what regards language, composition and arrangement. It is principally in what regards the thought, that we may say universally, whatever be the species of eloquence a man aims to attain, every thing that serves to improve his knowledge, discernment and good sense, serves also to improve him as an orator. " Scribendi recte sapere est et principium et fons."
of the Expression.
my last lecture, I treated in general of the thought or sentiment of the discourse, and laid before you some reflections on the different sorts into which it is distinguishable, narration, explanation, argumentation and moral reflection, and the methods whereby each ought to be conducted by the christian orator. I proceed now to consider what is properly called elocution, or what regards the expression or enunciation of the sentiments by language. The word has sometimes of late been less properly used for pronunciation. Let it be observed, that I here always mean by it, all that regards the enunciation of the thoughts by language. It is by this, as I had occasion in a former discourse to remark to you, that eloquence holds of grammar, as it is by the other, that she holds of logic.
A few words therefore on what I may call the grammatical elocution, before I enter on the consideration of the rhetorical. The work of the grammarian serves as a foundation to that of the rhetorician. The highest aim of the former is the lowest aim of the latter. The one seeks only purity, the other superadds elegance
Grammatical purity in any language