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8vo. pp. 372. Price 9s. London, 1825. IN an article upon Pulpit Eloquence, which appears in a I recent Number of a popular Journal,* it is cited as a trite remark, that the oratory of the pulpit, generally speaking, 'turns very peculiar advantages to a very moderate account.' And the Writer must be allowed to have placed both the advantages of the Christian teacher and the comparatively small account to which those advantages are turned, in a very forcible light. The more the subject is reflected upon, the more astonishing, we think, it will appear, that, in a day when so much attention is paid to pulpit oratory, there should be so few eloquent preachers, and so extremely little eloquence of a high order; that while sermons are in so much more general request than formerly, and congregations are so easily brought together, the cases should be so rare, in which any powerful impression is made upon the public mind through this medium.
The causes of this fact are but slightly touched in the article referred to; and yet, they are worthy of being investigated. It may be said, that eloquence is not a very common endowment in any walk of life, and at the present moment, there seems to be an uncommon dearth of the article, both in the senate and at the bar. We have no Foxes or Pitts, no Erskines or Currans, rising into fame. And thus, the rareness of eloquent men in the Church, may seem to be in part referrible to the same causes that have prevented the formation and rise of eminent orators in other departments. But this inference would not be quite correct. First, the fact is of too long standing to be accounted for in this manner. We have had eloquent sena
tors and pleaders, but, within the Church of England, scarcely a powerful preacher since Bishop Burnet. The exceptions are to be found exclusively in the ranks of Methodism. Besides, if there be in the settled, peaceful, and unstirring character of the times, something that is unfavourable to the production or development of forensic or political eloquence, there is much in their religious aspect that is peculiarly favourable to the cultivation of sacred oratory,-much to call out and excite the preacher, as well as a more powerful demand for the exertion of his best faculties.
Nor is pulpit eloquence altogether neglected or despised. Popularity is aimed at pretty generally; and popularity, such as it is, is in some cases cheaply obtained. And perhaps we may be told, that a popular preacher must be, in some sort, an eloquent one; that the individual who can attract to himself large crowds, and keep up the complacent attention of a religious audience, must be a gifted man. Uphappily-or-we should rather say happily, when Scriptural truth is taught-it is found that large audiences can be collected and maintained by individuals with whom a man of either eloquence or correct taste would feel it degrading to be compared, -by the periodical exhibition of mere fluency of the shallowest description, or by mere theological eccentricity.* Dr. Hawker could collect crowds, as large as Dr. Gordon or Dr. Chalmers can now; and ëhe same individuals would be found running to hear either. It cannot be said, that the doctrine is always the attraction ; although, thank God, evangelical preaching, which alone comes home to the hearts of men as subjects of those spiritual wants which only the Gospel can relieve, will always be the most popular. But the doctrine, apart from the manner, does not ensure to the preacher, however learned and judicious, a complacent audience. It is therefore found necessary to pay a greater attention than ever, to the manner of address, or what is called pulpit oratory.
Surely, then, it cannot be questioned, whether eloquence be a legitimate object of desire and pursuit to the Christian minister,-a gift earnestly to be coveted for the highest ends,the most exalted of human endowments in its noblest and worthiest application. If it be lawful to seek to please an audience by the getting up of a good sermon,' and by the requisites of an approved preacher as to its delivery, it cannot be unworthy of the sacred office to seek to impress, command, and move, by the
* There is nothing new in this. “ Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse. things, to draw away disciples after them.” Acts xx. 30.
putting forth of the higher qualities of intellectual art. If popularity may be desired as an instrument of usefulness, something more than popularity, the power of ruling the popular mind by the art of persuasion, may as legitimately, and from as holy motives, be aspired after.
But eloquence is, by many persons, confounded with display. There cannot be a greater mistake. At the very point at which display becomes palpable, eloquence ends. Without wishing to disparage any class of public teachers, we must be allowed to say, that the prevailing style of pulpit address is by no means perfectly free from the vice of display. An eloquent speaker must, at least for the time, be full of his subject; whereas there is a style of speaking, which always keeps below eloquence, but which may please and attract, while it leaves the speaker at perfect liberty to be less occupied with his topic, than with the display of himself.
Eloquence, pulpit eloquence, is, in fact, indistinctly aimed at,-even by some who might disclaim it; it is not despised, but it is ill understood. And this we take to be one principal cause that it is so rarely attained. We say that it is indis. tinctly aimed at. There is a sufficient degree of ambition afloat, but it is not of that kind which aims high. Mixed motives actuate all men,-those who devote themselves to the Christian ministry in common with others, if not in the same degree; but the wish to succeed and to excel, which is an element in all great exertions, does not, in the case in question, rise into a generous passion. Perhaps, there was never eloquence without ambition; and ambition is neither the vice nor the virtue of the age. It is not agitating the world by its turbulence, nor, in its holier mood, leading captive the world's admiration by the exhibition of moral greatness. The prevailing wish, the aim of all classes is, to be on good terms with society, and to be comfortable. But surely the objects of the Christian ministry, embracing in its scope both worlds, and in its successful exercise ensuring a reward infinitely outweighing any sublunary prize,--are worthy of calling forth a sacred ambition of even a heroic character.
Looking at all the advantages of the Christian minister, as derived from his theme, his station, and his personal interest both in the subject and the issue, we should be led almost to wonder why all sincere and well-informed preachers of thie. Christian verities are not eloquent. That seems to be so far the natural result of their situation, that there must be causes which prevent their almost necessarily becoming such.
As regards the Establishment, it is not difficult to assign the cause which has hitherto operated to prevent the possibility
the exhiblier mood, agitating."
of an English Massillon or Bourdaloue rising up in the English Church. Eloquence has not simply been discountenanced, but, so far as possible, stifled and most sedulously extirpated. A sermon unwritten has been regarded as an offence against orthodoxy,-more beinous, if possible, than a few words of extemporaneous prayer; and a dry, short, monotonous tone and cadence, studiously unaffecting, has been the standard of polite oratory, from which few have had till of late the temerity to deviate. Garrick's criticism on the preachers of his day, as compared with the actors, will doubtless be in the recollection of our readers. The Church, in its morbid dread of enthusiasm, had, by low living, brought on paralysis. Even now, to a great extent, any thing approaching to oratory, lies under the stigma of suspected Methodism, and is, for the most part, abandoned to that very equivocal description of clergymen whom Lord Liverpool thought it his duty to exclude from all the higher stations in the Establishment.
The causes why Protestant Dissenters have not among them more eloquent preachers, must be altogether different. One cause may be, the want of good models. And yet, it is remarkable, that the individual who, of all living preachers, best deserves to be so regarded, seems, so far as we are aware, to be wholly without followers in the chaste and simple style of his oratory. He may have his mimics, but has scarcely any scholars. As if the highest models were not the most imitable, it has been seemingly deemed a tribute to his excellence, to disregard his example. Because those higher flights of eloquence and originality which characterise the master-mind may not be attainable, the lesson which might be learned from his mode of preaching has been overlooked. No preacher of the present day exemplifies in so great perfection that secret of all true oratory, clear ideas in simple language. No one is more entirely free from display, or contrives so completely to throw himself into his subject as to be concealed by it, and to send you away with the impression that you never saw the subject in so strong a light before. That exquisite perspicuity which is the great charm of his oratory, that 'simple clearness ', which, like the day-light, makes things conspicuous, and • does not make them glare,'*- might be emulated, if it could not be equalled. Without simplicity, there can be no true eloquence. The most eloquent passages in the pages of either ancient or modern oratory, those which are recorded to have produced, on their first utterance, the most powerful effect, are distinguished by nothing more than by their pure simplicity,
* The description of the eloquence of Fox as given by Foster.