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I into the world.” God forsakes him, and yet is near and within him. He expires, and is “alive forevermore.”
Such, my brethren, is the Christ whom we are called to preach ; the faith once delivered to the saints which we are set to defend ; not God alone in Christ, nor man, but the completeness of both in his divine-human person, and in the church which is his body. How accordant with infinite wisdom in redemption, that the idea of man, begun in Adam, but cut short of realization by sin, should be thus completed in Christ as the second Adam ; that the fallen humanity should find its archetypal at-one-ment with the divinity, in this personal union! How sublime that faith of the church which grasps, as its magnetic centre and Saviour, one who stands in the complete nature of the sinful subject and the righteous Sovereign! How grand, in the march of the ages, the preparation for his advent, and how timely also in the slow but sure haste of providence, when all the philosophies of men and the economies of God had demonstrated the world's great need of him! And the future, too, how bright is it in the power and presence with his church of a risen and reigning Saviour ! — bright in the progress of the arts and sciences, of civilization and literature, the tardy though sure followers after the Man of Calvary; bright in the militant hosts on earth, and the countless companies yet to be redeemed ; — all, the achievement of the Word made flesh " the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth!”
THE ART OF CONVERSATION.
BY REV. LEONARD WITHINGTON, D.D., NEWBURYPORT, MASS.
If things are to be valued according to their use, very few arts are to be more diligently sought or desired than the art of conversing well. Speech is the distinguishing faculty of man; it is the utterance of reason ; and it is the medium by which reason imparts her light and increases it. Adequately to communicate our thoughts is a most important faculty, and in constant demand. The art of agreeable conversation renders a man very pleasing, and helps him forward in life; it is the channel, too, of doing good. Other arts may be of rare application, but there is a constant demand for the faculties of the man whose conversable powers are like a torch in a dark cell, which, if it reveals some deformity, puts the darkness to flight.
There is such a thing as perfection in this line, and it is likely a perfection that has never yet been seen. The sweetest rose formed by nature may have been blown; the brightest sun may have imparted his beams; but it is likely the best talker remains yet to be born. When we look around the world we find very few attain the highest or even a remarkable excellence. There are croakers, and grumblers, and dumbfounders, and murmurers, and groaners, and brawlers, and weepers, but very few real talkers. It requires a combination of gifts, each one in their separation rather rare: wit, wisdom, reading, memory, promptness, confidence, modesty, fertility of resources, and felicity in using them. We must have a confidence in ourselves and a respect for our company, and all these improved by cultivation and practice. Men are often good in one line : some tell stories well, but they tell too many ; some repeat their good things too often ; some are too severe, too proud, too ill
natured; and some too yielding. Some are too egotistical, and some usurp all the talk to themselves; for as the surface of a flower-garden amidst its bed of verdure and beauty must have walks of barren gravel, so a good converser must have his intervals of silence, and become an animated listener while he permits others to speak.
An art so delightful, and yet so seldom learned, may receive a few assisting observations.
Let us consider, first, the nature of conversation ; secondly, how acquired, and thirdly, its principal faults and imperfections.
First, then, conversation has several distinct parts, of which the principal are, small talk, discussion, anecdotes or telling stories, telling news, especially bad news, flattery, apophthegm and repartee, and, lastly, religious conversation.
To begin, then, with small talk, very necessary to a small creature like man, and very useful when it cements friendship and leads to something better. Though the Saviour says, “ for every idle word we speak we must give an account in the day of judgment,” yet there is some small talk that is not to come into the definition of idle words, for it is sanctioned by the permission of scripture itself. It is natural, and almost necessary to our social intercourse. We are told (2 John 10): “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.” God speed! A remarkable expression ; the current mode of salutation. The original signifies health to you; may you enjoy your health. So the apostles also began their epistles by the common mode of salutation, showing that their high mission did not impair their politeness. When Moses met his father-in-law in the wilderness, they asked each other of their welfare, and it was not until they came into the tent that Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh (Ex. xviii. 7, 8). These practices are founded in nature ; we follow them to this day. When we meet each other in the street we are in haste to tell each other what each must have known before : It is a
fine day; it is very cold; it is a dry time; it is a warm summer; how the canker-worms disfigure the trees; the philosophy of all which is, I will say something to which you must agree; I will not have a dispute with you in the outset; and if a person depart from these conventional rules he appears abrupt. It is said when Dr. Alexander passed through New England in the beginning of this century, he called on Dr. Strong of Hartford, who, before he had hardly shut the door, said to his guest : “ Dr. Alexander, what is the origin of evil ?” Dr. Alexander's reply was: “Is it necessary for us to begin there? Or is that the first thing ?” Small talk is like the cement that binds the bricks together, or it is like the leaves on the tree, which indicate the vegetable life which gives ripeness to the fruit. It is the side path that leads to the main road. I pity the man that has no small talk; and I pity him still more that has nothing better. A bat makes a miserable bird, because he can never fly higher than his own level on his wicker wing.
But discussion is an important ingredient in conversation ; and by discussion I mean not the debates of the schools, but the discussion of the parlor. Some people conceive an everlasting opposition between politeness and earnest discussion. Politeness consists, they think, in always saying, Yes, yes, to your opponent; always agreeing to the proposed opinion, however absurd or unlimited. Thus, if a man in company should say that the moon is made of green cheese, you must reply, according to some : “ Why, yes sir, there is a great deal in what you say ; your opinion is very plausible, I am sure ; I have seen the moon look like a skim-milk cheese, with a half circle dug out of the centre. Appearances are wholly in your favor.” This opposition between politeness and discussion is wholly imaginary. It is one of the greatest arts in conversation to contradict without offence. This was the great skill of Socrates. When he seemed most to agree with a companion there was no knowing where he was con g
1 Aeneid, Book vii. line 478 (Dryden's translation).
out. He often either contradicted him at last, or made him contradict himself.
Discussion is a most delightful mode of conversation, if the company are up to it, and the more earnest the better. Then you drop the mask ; then you lay bare the heart; then your opinions, like the pebbles on the shore, under the action of the advancing or receding wave, are worn into smoothness and polished into beauty. Then mind meets mind, and your most sober conclusions are brought into sympathy with all mankind. You are improved for the moment, and you carry your improvement into the solitude of reflection. It is a stimulus to memory, and you cannot take up a book without feeling the influence of free discussion.
What a beautiful description has Rousseau given of the conversation in Paris. “Their conversation,” says he, "consists neither in dissertation or epigram; they reason without argumentation ; they have pleasantry without punning; they associate with skill, genius and reason, maxims and flashes of wit, sharp satire and severe morality. They run through all subjects, that each one may have something to say; they exhaust no subject, for fear of tiring their hearer; they propose their themes casually; they treat them rapidly, and precision leads to elegance. Each one delivers his opinion and supports it briefly; no one attacks with heat that of another, nor defends obstinately his own; they examine in order to enlighten, and stop before it becomes a dispute. Each is both instructed and amused, and all are pleased ; even the sage himself bears away recollections worthy of his meditation in the silence of retreat." 1 Now as the French aro the best conversers in the world, and Rousseau one of the best witnesses both of their beauties and defects, we may regard this description as a compendious portrait of what parlor discussion should be.
It is sad to think how few, even of educated men, are qualified for agreeable and profitable discussion. It is not every red cow that gives good milk ; and the fault is not
1 New Heloise, vol. ii. pp. 95, 96.