Images de page
PDF
ePub

memorable actions related in the discourse. Thus much

may be said in general of all these different kinds, that no observation made, or motive urged here can be called apposite, unless it have a manifest reference to, and be founded in the facts related and the virtues celebrated in some part or other of the body of the discourse.

I must further observe, that the pathetic is more easily attained, and that the transition to it

appears more natural in the conclusion of a commendatory sermon, than in that, either of an explanatory dis-, course, or of a controversial. In these two kinds, during the whole tenour of the discourse, which is of a nature merely speculative, the understanding and memory only are exerted, as the whole consists either in explanations or in reasonings. This. is rather unfavourable for emotion, and it requires a good deal of address to pass successfully from the one to the other. The mind cannot all at once from a state of perfect coolness, enter with warmth and keenness into the views of the speaker. It behoves him therefore, in beginning such an address, to take up the point on the key, if I may so express myself, to which he knows their souls are at the time attuned, and gradually to work them up to that pitch to which he wants to bring them. If he act a contrary part, and break out all at once, with heat and violence, when they are perfectly cool, so far from operating on their affections, or influencing their will, he will appear to them like one distracted, who flies into a rage for he knows not what. No axiom is more important for bringing us to succeed in the pathetic, than this, that in addressing the hearers, we must enter with them

[ocr errors]

on the subject in the same tone to which their minds are predisposed at the time to take it up in, and then insensibly work them up to ours. A prudent speaker, who perceives a coldness or indifference in his audience, will judge it necessary to disguise his own warmth, and to appear willing to canvass the matter as coolly as they can desire. If he succeeds thus in entering on it, and has the address for a little while to manage them, he may carry them at last, to what pitch he will. We have an excellent example of this kind of address, in the funeral panegyric, which Shakspeare puts into the mouth of Antony, on his friend Julius Cæsar, immediately after his murder in the senate house.

But to return, I repeat the sentiment, as an important one, that nothing tends more strongly to make us deaf to what another

says,
than if he

appear to be in a passion, when we are quite tranquil. Now the panegyrical discourses much more easily pass into the pathetic, than either the explanatory or the controversial. There is a near affinity between the moral sentiments, with the emotions they occasion, and the passions and affections of the mind. The gradation is perfectly smooth and natural from approbation to admiration, from admiration to esteem and love, from esteem and love of the virtuous and praiseworthy, to detestation and abhorrence of the contrary dispositions, and from these to corresponding desires and aversions. The orator has only to take the advantage of this gradation, and that frame of spirit which the whole scope of the discourse was calculated to produce.

LECTURE XII.

OF PATHETIC DISCOURSES, OR THOSE ADDRESSED TO

THE PASSIONS. OF PERSUASIVE DISCOURSES, OR SUCH AS ARE INTENDED TO OPERATE ON THE WILL,

I HAVE now gone through the explanation of the principal parts of the three first kinds of pulpit discourses, the explanatory, the controversial, and the commendatory, and the rules to be severally observed in composing each. I come now to the fourth kind, the pathetic, or that which is addressed immediately to the passions, and which is specially intended to rouse the mind from a state of languor and indifference to the impressions of fervour and affection. The occasions of dis-, courses of this kind with us, it must be owned, are not very frequent. For though in some of the other kinds, particularly in the persuasive, a great deal is addressed to the passions, yet these are, in that species of sermon, only employed as means to persuade to the particular practice or duty recommended. Whereas in the pathetic, properly so called, the rousing of suitable affections is apparently the ultimate end. I acknowledge, that the whole of preaching, either directly or indirectly points to persuasion. But I denominate that only, the end of any species of discourse, which is the declared and apparent end of the speaker. I have

means.

observed, that the occasions of discourses of this kind are few; there are however some. None is more remarkable or occurs oftener, than those calculated for disposing a congregation to a suitable commemoration of the sufferings of our Lord, in the sacrament of the supper, or Eucharist, as it is commonly named in Ecclesiastical History. I do not say, however, that this is the only kind of dise' course that is adapted to such occasions. By no

If that were the case, as the subject of exciting the affections on such occasions is always the same, it would lay a minister in his own parish under the necessity of recurring so often to the same topics, as could not fail to prove tiresome to the majority of the hearers, and that though the things advanced by him were ever so good. An explanatory, a commendatory, or a persuasive discourse may also at such times be very pertinent. A little of the grace of novelty in form and manner, is exceedingly necessary for commanding the attention of the greater part of audiences. The only kind that I think ought to be excluded entirely from occasions of this nature, is the controversial. When the pathetic at such a time is made choice of, the preacher's aim is not to persuade the people to communicate. He supposes, that they have come to church with that intention. It is not to persuade them to the performance of any preparatory duty; all this he supposes to have been performed already. But it is to operate on all the grateful and devout affections of the heart, and to put his hearers, I may say, in a proper frame of spirit for discharging the duty for which they are assembled, in such a reverend and pious manner.

as may produce the best effect upon their minds, and tend most to the edification and confirmation of themselves, and others. The subject for this purpose may be more or less comprehensive, as the preacher shall judge convenient. Indeed, for the sake of giving a little variety to what does not, from its nature, admit a great deal, it may not be improper at different times to follow different methods; at one time, for instance, the subject may be the love of Christ as manifested in the whole scheme of redemption; at another, the same thing, as manifested in his sufferings and death. It is discourses of the last kind, which are commonly called passion-sermons.

In regard to the exordium or introduction, there will be less occasion for much art, when the solemnity of the time or the purpose of their meeting tends itself to rouse the attention of the hearer, and to supersede the address of the speaker. The topics for introducing the subject may then very pertinently be raised either from the intention for which the day was set apart, or from the nature and importance of the matter to be treated in the ser

There is nothing peculiar to be observed in regard to the explanation of the text and context. If the discourse is intended merely to display the sufferings of our Lord, from his being betrayed into the hands of his enemies, to his death, the cruelty which was exercised upon him, and the meekness, piety and patience with which he bore it, it does not appear to be necessary, formally to lay down a method. It is enough in your narratiye to follow the order of the history. In the manner of the exhibition, there will not be here a

mon.

« PrécédentContinuer »