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It would be to no purpose to object to me here the example of Cicero, in his beautiful Oration against Verres. The Orator successively invokes, in his Peroration, all the gods and goddesses, whose temples this robber had pillaged, and, by this means, he draws a more striking picture of his profanations. But what then? are those sublime apostrophes an analysis of his pleading?
Cicero had proved, at the beginning, that Verres had no military genius, and that he was equally incapable of commanding a fleet or an army ; he had afterwards gone over the excesses of his debaucheries, his avarice, and his cruelties towards the Roman citizens, whom he caused to be crucified upon the coasts of Sicily, their faces being turned from the Roman shore.
Now Cicero omits all these outrages at the couclusion of his discourse, and only reproaches the accused with his sacrileges.
It is not therefore true, that the Roman Orator presents to his judges a summary of his speech in this Peroration.
Our most illustrious Orators, when concluding a sermon, never recapitulate the plan and arguments of the subject.
Massillon, I confess, hastily runs over some of
his ideas in the Peroration of his discourse, on
the certainty of a future state ;' but he does not grow languid, when he touches upon the contradictions with which he charges the wicked ; and he quickly extricates himself by some moving passages.
Besides one single example should not suffice for establishing a general rule. What! ought we then to follow Massillon and Bourdaloue, when even they would be shackled by a proceeding so didactic and uniform? Who doth not perceive, that such sort of corollaries would leave both the preacher and the congregation unaffected ?
The Orator's conclusion must not be confined to simple speculative consequences. He has done nothing as yet when he has proved the truth of his principles. This is the point from which he should proceed, in order to subdue the passions, that the sinner may retain no excuse, and that conviction may bring him to repentance.
Now, that you may produce such effects, take leave of your proofs and your divisions, and be assured, that whatever is repeated, enfeebles.
Comment upon some verses of a psalm relative to your subject, and in the compunction or in the weaknesses of David, point out the remorse and secret troubles of all. Exhort, instruct, confute, by varied repetitions, and such as may interest the feelings of the different classes, of which society is composed. Display all the strength of your genius to prove that happiness doth not consist in pleasure, but in virtue.
What in short shall I say to you? Forget method; forget art itself. Lift up your heart to God by an affectionate prayer. Become the intercessor on behalf of your auditory; that the multitude who resisted your threatenings, may be constrained to yield to the effusions of your Christian charity.
YOU may, in vain, have received from na
ture this happy gift of persuading and moving; in vain may you have brought your talent to perfection by the study of rules; you may attain to Eloquence in writing ; still you would never speak like an eloquent man, if you were impeded in the delivery of your
discourse by the treachery of your memory.
Cicero calls this faculty “ the treasure of the • soul ;'* and he always reckons it among the qualities essential to an Orator.
What is not clcarly understood is badly repeated; for, to a stiff pronunciation, which is already beconie too perceptible in Christian pulpits, there is added a want of freedom, which wearies the congregation.
When once hearers experience this disgust, they are afraid of meeting with a similar embarrassment, and never listen afterwards without uneasiness. Hence it follows, that a defect of memory, which is by no means injurious to the merit of che Orator, does infinite injury to the success of the discourse.
Never, therefore, consider the time lost, which you may devote to this mechanical study. It is not this time which you lose, but it is the labour of composition, which becomes fruitless, if you do not carefully make yourself master of a sermon on which you have bestowed much pains.
* Memoria thesaurus est mentis. De Orat. 27.
† Quel déplaisir de voir l'Orateur entrepris
Relire daps la voûte un sermon mal appris !
• Those,' says Dr. Watts, ` who are called to speak in 'public, are much better heard and accepted, when they can deliver their discourse by the help of a genius and ready memory, than when they are forced to read all that
Bourdaloue and Massillon, both of them born with treacherous memories, were obliged to have recourse to their manuscripts during almost the whole period of their exercising the sacred ministery ; but they perceived at that time, with a degree of mortification, how much they diminished the pleasure, which people received in hearing them. The Bishop of Clermont, from thence, conceived such a dislike for the pulpit, that he was unwilling to mount it during the twenty-five last years of his life ; and it is a fact, that, when urged one day to declare to which of his sermons he gave the preference, he very shrewdly replied, "to that which I know t. e best.'*
they would communicate to their hearers. Reading is certainly a heavier way of conveying our sentiments; and there • are very few mere readers, who have the felicity of pene• trating the soul, and awakening the passions of those who • hear, by such a grace and power of Oratory, as the man
who seems to talk every word from his very heart, and pours out the riches of his own knowledge upon the people ( around him, by the help of a free and copious memory. • This gives life and spirit to every thing that is spoken, and • has a natural tendency to make a deeper impression on the • minds of men ; it awakens the dullest spirits, causes them • to receive a discourse with more affection and pleasure, • and adds a singular grace andexcellency both to the person • and his oration.'-Watt's on the Improvement of the Mind, vol. i. 8vo. p. 247.
* To corroborate our author's remark respecting Bourdaloue and Massillon having treacherous memories, let it be remarked, that it is often found, that a fine genius has but