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can discern the soul of nature, or see those visions of the exquisitely fair in the material, world, which it is his calling to transfer to song ? The first qualification demanded of a teacher of any given science is fond and reverential devotion to it. Without this, his lectures are nothing better than straw. But if this be so, what shall we say of the swarm of fashionable triflers who, having never felt a single emotion which can be dignified with the epithet religious ; the springs of whose moral sensibilities lying beyond the ken even of their own consciousness, too deep for notice, too central to have been unsealed by any thought which has hitherto found its way into their hearts; what shall we say of these men, dandling with nonchalance the solemnities of revelation, and having, week by week, their superficial and dogmatic say, about objects the greatest with which human minds can be conversant ?'
Southey, in describing the unavailing efforts he once made to attain refreshing slumber, has given us a fine specimen of satire on dull preaching. I put my arms out of bed. I turned the pillow for the sake of applying a cold surface to my cheek. I stretched my feet into the cold corner. I listened to the river, and to the ticking of my watch. I thought of all sleepy sounds and all soporific things; the flow of water, the humming of bees, the motion of a boat, the waving of a field of corn, the nodding of a mandarin's head on the chimneypiece, a horse in a mill, the opera, Mr. Humdrum’s conversation, Mr. Proser's poems, Mr. Laxative's speeches, Mr. Lengthy's sermons. I tried the device of my own childhood, and fancied that the bed revolved with me round and round. At last Morpheus reminded me of Dr. Torpedo's divinity lectures, where the voice, the manner, the matter, even the very atmosphere, and the streamy candle-light were all alike somnific; when he who by strong effort lifted up his head, and forced
open the reluctant eyes, never failed to see all around him fast asleep. "Lettuces, cowslip-wine, poppy-syrup, mandragora, hoppillows, spider's-web pills, and the whole tribe of narcotics, up to bang and the black drop, would have failed: but this was irresistible ; and thus twenty years after date I found benefit from having attended the course.'
But, we need not add, Dr. Bascom's preaching is not of this kind. He perceives more importance in the business of the sacred desk, and enters upon its functions with more becoming zeal. He does not leave his hearers stupidly to snore under his ministrations as coolly to approve his counsels, but arouses all their energies, and hurries them forward to the possession of rapturous hope, if possible, with irresistible impetuosity. His glowing words are often charged with electric fire, to force their way to the inmost recesses of the soul, and kindle therein the luminaries of immortal bliss. In achieving a work so sublime, he deals with no stinted measure in imagination, never forgetful in his best endeavors that,
*This magic art Must strike each string that vibrates on the heart: With taste, with judgment, energy refined, Mųst trace the various passions of the mind : Must to the powers of genius vigor give, And bid each animated sentence live.'
The utility of apt illustrations in preaching, the necessity of their being simple, and not in too great profusion, are well stated by a writer in the London Quarterly Review, in an article on Hare's ser
The preacher had spoken of smugglers and poachers,' 'tea and wheaten bread, upon which expressions and their like, the critic remarks:
• We have preachers in our time who would have flinched from expressions so natural and straight-forward; and would infallibly have warned their poor people against holding any intercourse with the nocturnal marauder on the main or the manor ; and have suggested to them the gratitude they owed for a fragrant beverage and farinaceous food. And so might Mr. Hare, if his taste had been less correct, and his desire of doing good less earnest. Affectation is bad enough anywhere ; in the pulpit it is intolerable.'
The writer goes on to condemn the excessive quaintness which prevailed about the time of the Reformation :
' Accordingly, within a century after the Reformation, we find Thomas Fuller, the last man, from natural temperament, one would have thought likely to offer a caution upon such a subject, saying of the faithful ministers : "His similes and illustrations are always familiar, never contemptible. Indeed reasons are the pillars of the fabric of a sermon; but similitudes are the windows which give the best light. He avoids such stories whose mention may suggest bad thoughts to the auditors, and will not use a light comparison to wake thereof a grave application, for fear lest his poison go farther than his antidote.' Preaching, therefore, now took an opposite tack, and from having been certainly once too succulent, by the time of John Wesley had become sapless. This was one cause which rendered the new style of preaching adopted by him and his followers so attractive. The standard, according to which the character of the imagery and diction of the pulpit of modern days was regulated, was not fixed before the divines of Queen Anne's time; as the vocabulary of poetry, according to Johnson, was not determined before the age of Dryden. In both cases the restraint has been injurious to the subject of it. There was a Doric simplicity -'wood-notes wild'— in the poets before Dryden, for which the greater correctness, it may be, of those who have since lived, is but a poor substitute; and there was a homely vigor in the sentiments and phraseology of the pulpit of the first and second Charles, which has been ill-replaced by the decorous tameness of later times. Surely it is a morbid taste, and one that requires correction, which would kick at images that satisfied a Barrow; and yet we could point to numbers in his sermons which would now be rejected by the preacher, even the village preacher too, as mean and pedestrian. The familiar illustrations, therefore, by which a subject is rendered clear to persons slow to apprehend, and interesting to persons hard to be excited, is a figure not lightly to be renounced in deference to the false refinement of the magnates of a congregation; though doubtless capable of abuse. We say false refinement, for there are parables both in the prophets and in the gospels, against which the same parties might raise the same objection.'
In a similar strain, and with a like object, though with still more expansion of thought, a masterly writer in the Edinburgh Review remarks:
• We have long felt that the eloquence of the pulpit in its general character has never been assimilated so far as it might have been, and ought to have been, to that which has produced the greatest effects elsewhere, and which is shown to be of the right kind, alike by the success which has attended it, and by an analysis of the qualities by which it has been distinguished. If we were compelled to give a brief definition of the truest style of eloquence, we should say it was
practical reasoning, animated by.strong emotion;' or if we might be indulged in what is rather a description than a definition of it, we should say that it consisted in reasoning on topics calculated to inspire a common interest, expressed in the language of ordinary life, and in that brief, rapid, familiar style, which natural emotion ever
The former half of this description would condemn no small portion of the compositions called sermons, and the latter half a still larger portion.
• We would not be misunderstood. It is far, very far, from our intention to speak in terms of the slightest depreciation of the immense treasures of learning, of acute disquisition, of profound speculation, of powerful controversy, which the literature of the English pulpit exemplifies. In these points it cannot be surpassed. In vigor and originality of thought, in argumentative power, in extensive and varied erudition, it as far transcends all other literature of the same kind, as it is deficient in the qualities which are fitted to produce popular impression. We merely assert that the greater part of “sermons' are not at all entitled to the name, if by it be meant discourses specially adapted to the object of instructing, convincing, or persuading the common mind.'
Speakers, constituted like Dr. Bascom, are in danger of two vices in style, a surplussage of decoration and extravagant display.
In the first place, it is of the greatest importance to avoid the two extremes of glare and monotony. As an adroit artist breaks his colors, carefully distributing light and shadow over his landscape, so the preacher, if he would be constantly interesting, must be continually diversified. A. luxuriance of ornament, especially of the same kind, destroys that simplicity and repose, which are the perpetual accompaniments of true dignity. The refined Greeks were wonderfully acute to the proprieties of things, and in their master-pieces of plastic art have left us the most striking symbols of every grade of excellence. In their hands, Minerva's drapery was made to descend in long uninterrupted lines; while a thousand amorous curves embra'ce the limbs of Flora. Considered as types of pulpit eloquence, it is needless to 'say 'which of these we should emulate.
Dr. Bascom in some respects resembles Jeremy Taylor, of whom it has been said, that he thought in pictures, and his ideas were shadowed out in lovely images of beauty. His fancy colored his understanding, which rather painted elaborate metaphors, long drawn out,' than analyzed the complexity of a problem, or conducted the discussion of a topic, by logical processes. The material world furnished his stock of similes. He drew on it for illustrations, rather than seek them in the workings of his own mind. His descriptions are almost palpable. They have an air of reality. His landscape is enveloped in a warm and glowing atmosphere; his light is from heaven. His style is rich and luxuriant. He is all grace, beauty, melody. He does not appear so anxious to get at the result of an argument, to fix the certainty of a proposition, as to give the finest coloring to a received sentiment. He is more descriptive and less speculative. He reposes on the lap of beauty. He revels in her creations. The thirst of his soul was for the beautiful
. This was with him almost synonymous with the good — the first good and the first fair.' Is it not so? Is not the highest truth the highest form of beauty? Our common idea of beauty is more sensual and tinged with earthliness. But the Platonic and spiritual conception is nobler and truer. His style is naturally poetic from the character of his mind; he had that poetic sensibility of feeling that saw beauty and deep meaning in every thing. His imagination colored the commonest object on which it lighted, as the bow of promise throws its tints over all creation ; through this, as a veil, every object appeared bright and blooming like the flowers of spring, or dark and terrible like the thunder-cloud of summer. Its general hue was mild and gentle; he had a more genial feeling for beauty than for grandeur; though his awful description of the Last Judgment is stamped with the sublime force of Michael Angelo, or rather, like Rembrandt's shadows, terrible with excess of gloom. In this grand picture are collected all the images of terror and dismay, fused into a powerful whole by his so potent art. It is first a solemn anthem; a version of the monkish canticle; then you hear (in imagination) the deep base note of the last thunder that shall ever peal through the sky. You are almost blinded by the lightnings that gleam in his style. Presently, a horrid shriek of despair, (the accumulated wailing of millions of evil spirits,) rises on the affrighted ear. And anon, the trumpet with a silver sound is blown several times, and all is still. With what a subtle
power this master plays on the conscience of his readers! He makes the boldest tremble; he magnifies, he reiterates, until the best of men shall think himself a fellow of the vilest!'
The instance we have just quoted is a monition, as well as a marvel, in respect to pulpit exercises, since the mere beauty and flow of outline will unavoidably lead toward sameness and insipidity. • The things most delicate require most pains.' The poet Mason called Simplicity the arbitress of all that's good and fair; but this is by no means incompatible with richness of material and elaborate finish. In short, as Mr. Alison has said : ‘In all the Fine Arts, that composition is most excellent in which the different parts most fully unite in the production of one unmingled emotion, and that taste the most perfect, where the perception of this relation of objects, in point of expression, is most delicate and precise. The unity of a discourse cannot be too manifest, nor can the finish of all its members be too carefully executed, but it must be the harmony of real substance and many varied but correlative parts. Artificial constructions, loaded with affected embellishments, are like wax fruit and paper foliage in a dusty, confined vase; or rather they are like diamonds on a superannuated woman, they may array, but they cannot adorn. The cold and servile spirit of copyism inevitably destroys all valuable originality. To deviate into occasional abruptness, and extravagance even, is better than to preserve a perpetual monotony of style.
One of the most critical observers and powerful writers of this age has well said that the truths of nature are one eternal change - one infinite variety. There is no bush on the face of the globe exactly like another bush ; there are no two trees in the forest whose boughs bend into the same network, nor two leaves on the same tree which could not be told one from the other; nor two waves in the sea exactly alike. And out of this mass of various, yet agreeing beauty, it is by long attention only that the conception of the constant character, the ideal form, hinted at by all, yet assumed by none, is fixed upon the imagination for its standard of truth. With equal propriety it
may be remarked, that there is no climate, no place, no hour of the day or night, in which nature does not exhibit new tints and tones, effects of light and shadow of the most diversified and fascinating kind. Such should be the model of all eloquence, secular and religious. It is necessary constantly to recur to nature and animate rigid forms with the air of life, but we should be careful not to descend to that emasculated softness which is a very poor substitute for the loftier attributes of manly strength. The most ornamental style requires large measures of simplicity to set off its decorations to the greatest advantage.
'EARTH hath her deserts mixed with fruitful plains ;
The other vice in style to which a mind like Dr. Bascom's is exposed, is vociferous elocution and extravagant display. We do not assert that such is the fact with respect to this distinguished preacher, but only that a temperament of his high tone is naturally impelled toward this fault. Such a speaker is inclined, from an ardent and impetuous flow of feeling, to begin on a high key, which it is impossible and disagreeable to maintain through an ordinary discourse, 80 that oft expectation fails, and most there where most it promises.'
Oratory differs from a cold formal narration by a liberal though chaste use of figurative and metaphorical expressions; more ornamental than dull prose, less ardent and glowing than poetry. It is a style which strongly addresses the two most excitable faculties of the mind, its imagination and its sensibility. In order to attain this oratorical excellence one must have seen much, read much, and pondered a great deal
all that he has either perused or observed. Too many aim at popularity, by reducing their language to the lowest strain, and employ the merest puerilities for embellishment. The subjects preferred by such are chiefly dogmatical; and if a moral