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periority 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 plausibly 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 ta-. lents, 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 spe. cies 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
IN 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 and energy. Grammatical purity in any language (suppose English, that in which every preacher in this country
is chiefly interested) requires a careful observance of these three things: first, that the words employed be English words; secondly, that they be construed in the English idiom; thirdly, that they be · made to present to the reader or hearer the precise meaning, which good use hath affixed to them. A trespass against the first, when the word is not English, is called a barbarism; a trespass against the second, when the fault lies in the construction, is termed a solecism; a trespass against the third, when the word, though English, is not used in its true meaning, is denominated an impropriety. As the foundation is necessary to the superstructure, so an attention to grammatical purity is previously necessary to one who would attain the elegant, affecting, and energetic expression of the orator. There is the greater need of attending to this particular here, as we, in this country, labour under special disadvantages in this respect. Permit me, therefore, to take this opportunity of recommending to you, to bestow some time and attention on the perusal of our best English grammars, and to familiarize yourselves to the idiom of our best and purest writers. It is, I think, a matter of some consequence, and therefore ought not to be altogether neglected by the student.
I know it will be said, that when all a man's labour is employed in instructing the people of a country parish, to which there is little or no resort of strangers, propriety of expression is not a matter of mighty moment, provided he speak in such a manner as to be intelligible to his parishioners. I admit the truth of what is advanced in this objection, but by no means the consequence
which the objectors seem disposed to draw from it. I must therefore entreat that a few things may be considered on the other hand. And first, you cannot know for certain, where it may please Providence that your lot should be. If you acquire the knowledge of the language in the proper acceptation of the word, you acquire a dialect which will make you understood over all the British empire; for as the English translation of the Bible, which is universally used in these dominions, and as all our best writings, are in what I may
call the general and pure idiom of the tongue, that idiom is perfectly well understood even by those, who cannot speak it with propriety themselves. Whereas if you attach yourself to a provincial dialect, it is a hundred to one, that many of your words and phrases will be misunderstood in the very neighbouring province, district, or county. And even though they should be intelligible enough, they have a coarseness and vulgarity in them, that cannot fail to make them appear to men of knowledge and taste ridiculous: and this doth inexpressible injury to the thought conveyed under them, how just and important soever it be. You will say, that this is all the effect of mere prejudice in the hearers, consequently unreasonable and not to be regarded. Be it, that this is prejudice in the hearers, and therefore unreasonable. It doth not follow, that the speaker ought to pay no regard to
It is the business of the orator to accommodate himself to men, such as he sees they are, and not such as he imagines they should be. A certain pliancy of disposition in regard to innocent prejudices and defects, is what, in our intercourse
with the world, good sense necessarily requires of us, candour requires of us, our religion itself requires of us. It is this very disposition, which our great apostle recommends by his own example, where he tells us that he “ became all things to all
men, that he might by all means save some.” But upon impartial examination, the thing perhaps will be found not so unreasonable, as at first sight it may appear. A man of merit and breeding you may disguise by putting him in the apparel of a clown, but you cannot justly find fault, that in that garb he meets not with the same reception in good company, that he would meet with if more suitably habited.
The outward appearance is the first thing that strikes us in a person, the expression is the first thing that strikes us in a discourse. Take care at least, that in neither there be any thing to make an unfavourable impression, which may preclude all further inquiry and regard. It was extremely well said by a very popular preacher in our own days, who when consulted by a friend that had a mind to publish, whether he thought it befitting a writer on religion to attend to such little matters as grammatical correctness; answered, “By all means. It is much better to “ write so as to make a critic turn Christian, than
so as to make a Christian turn critic.” The answer was judicious and well expressed. That the thought may enter deeply into the mind of the reader or hearer, there is need of all the assistance possible from the expression. Little progress can it be expected then, that the former shall make, if there be any thing in the latter, which serves to divert the attention from it. And this effect at