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less, adopt it without fearing to diminish the energy of rhetorical movements, while it directs them with greater exactness. Genius needs to be guided in its progress, and the curb which preserves it from wandering, restrains by salutary' checks, and renders it the greatest service. It is thus that genius becomes strengthened and increased, when it proceeds under the guidance of reason and judgment.*
"length should be without method; that is, every thing. "should be found in its proper place. Every one who "speaks will find it of the greatest advantage to himself to "have previously arranged his thoughts, and classed under proper heads, in his own mind, what he is to deliver. "This will assist his memory, and carry him through his "discourse, without that confusion to which one is every "moment subject, who has fixed no distinct plan of what "he has to say.
"And, with respect to the hearers, order in discourse is "absolutely necessary for making any proper impression. "It adds both force and light to what is said. It makes "them accompany the speaker easily and readily, as he goes "along; and makes them feel the full effect of every argu"ment which he employs.
"In every sort of oration, a clear method is of the utmost but in those embroiled and difficult cases "which belong to the Bar, it is almost all in all. Too much "pains, therefore, cannot be taken in previously studying "the plan and method. If there be indistinctness and dis "order there, we can have no success in convincing; we "leave the whole cause in darkness."-BLAIR's Lectures, vol. ii. p. 53, 54, 83. See also the same author's judicious sentiments in favour of divisions in sermons, p. 170.
* The following observations exactly correspond with the sentiments of our author: "Nothing can contribute more
The hearer who knows not whither we are conducting him, soon wanders. The plan is so necessary in order to fix his attention, that it remains
"towards bringing the powers of genius to their ultimate "perfection, than a severe judgment, equal in degree to the "genius possessed. For the greater the strength and viva"city of the imagination which gives birth to those ideas, "the greater must be that wisdom and prudence which are "requisite to moderate the fire of imagination, and rule its "vivacity when it becomes too daring. Reason ought to "be stronger than genius, in order to know how far enthu"siasm may go. The judgment and prudence which should 66 'belong to such a one for the improvement and balance of "his genius, ought themselves to be brought to their utmost perfection by the ministration of art, without which noth"ing exact or regular can by produced."-Reflections on ARISTOTLE'S Art of Poetry, §. 16, 17.
"In order to render the productions of genius regular “and just, as well as elegant and ingenious, the discerning "and coercive power of judgment should mark and restrain "the excursions of a wanton imagination; in other words "the austerity of reason should blend itself with the gaiety "of the graces. The proper office of judgment in composi"tion, is to compare the ideas which imagination collects; "to observe their agreement or disagreement, their relations "and resemblances; to point out such as are of a homoge66 neous nature; to mark and reject such as are discordant; "and, finally, to determine the truth and utility of the in"ventions or discoveries which are produced by the power "of the imagination. This faculty is, in all its operations, "cool, attentive and considerate. It canvasses the design, "ponders the sentiments, examines their propriety and con"nection, and reviews the whole composition with severe "impartiality. Thus it appears to be in every respect a
proper counterbalance to the rambling and volatile power "of imagination."-Essay on Genius, B. 1. §. 1. p. 8, 9.
no longer a question whether the Orator ought to point it out to him.
Is this plan (as indispensably requisite to be composed with method as to be heard with effect), ill conceived, obscure, and indeterminate? there will be in the proofs an inevitable confusion, the subjects will not be clearly distinguished, and the arguments, instead of affording each other a mutual support, will interfere*.
The more you study your plan, the greater enlargement you give to your subject. Statements, which, at first, seemed sufficiently copious to embrace the substance of a discourse in all its extent, scarcely form a subdivision fertile enough
* ' A sermon,' says Mons. CLAUDE, 'should clearly and 'purely explain a text, make the sense easy to be comprehended, and place things before the people's eyes so that they may be understood without difficulty. This rule con⚫demns embarrassment and obscurity, the most disagreeable thing in the world in a pulpit. It ought to be remembered that the greatest part of the hearers are simple people, whose profit, however, must be aimed at in preaching: but it is impossible to edify them, unless you be very 'clear.
As to learned hearers, it is certain, they will always prefer a clear before an obscure sermon; for first they will 'consider the simple, nor will their benevolence be content ' if the illiterate be not edified; and next, they will be loth to be driven to the necessity of giving too great an atten'tion, which they cannot avoid, if the preacher be obscure. The minds of men, whether learned or ignorant, generally avoid pain; and the learned have fatigue enough, in the C study, without increasing it at church.'-ROBINSON's Translation of CLAUDE, on the composition of a sermon, vol. i. p. 11.
when you are acquainted with the method of expanding your ideas.
Far from a Christian Orator be those plans which dazzle by a sophistical singularity, a far fetched antithesis, or a subtle paradox ; plans neither sufficiently distinct to be retained, nor sufficiently important to be filled up, and which only hold out vain and useless speculations; plans built either upon undistinguishing epithets, which open no field for argument, or upon pretences more suited to an episode than to the division of a sermon. Let those uniform and corresponding subdivisions between the two branches of a discourse be especially discarded, which form a puerile contrast equally unworthy of an art so noble, and a ministry so august.
Avoid such dazzling faults. Give me a plan simple and rational. Your proofs, clear and distinct, will imprint themselves on my memory; and I shall render to your Eloquence the best of all homages if I retain a lasting remembrance of what I have heard; for the best sermon is that which the hearer most easily recollects*.
*The judicious FENELON animadverts with a becoming severity, on the preacher's perversion of these words, ‘I have eaten ashes like bread,' Psalm cii. 9, who discovered his aim to be to dazzle his hearers and to amuse them with points of wit, or puzzling riddles; and he observes that ' instead of the preacher's laying down quaint conceits for 'the subject of his discourse, he ought in the division of
OF PLANS DRAWN FROM THE TEXT.
EVERY Orator possessed of original ideas,
without ever attempting to astonish, will have new and striking plans, merely by attending to the scope of his own genius.
Plans are frequently singular and whimsical, especially when they are drawn from the text.
a sermon to give such a one as naturally arises from the
subject itself, and may impart light and just order to the 'several parts; such a division as may easily be remem
bered, and at the same time help to connect and retain 'the whole; a division, in fine, that may shew at once the extent of the subject of all its parts." Dialogues concerning Eloquence, p. 4, 6, 7.
The same writer also observes that
there should be nothing refined or far fetched in a Christian Orator's in'structions; nor should he be setting up for wit and deli'cacy of invention when he ought to speak with the utmost 'seriousness and gravity, out of regard to the authority of 'the Holy Spirit whose words he borrows.'-Ibid. p. 146.
'What,' says he, could we think of a preacher who should, in the most affected jingle of words, shew sinners 'the divine judgment hanging over their heads, and hell open under their feet? there is a decency to be observed in our language as well as in our clothes. A disconsolate 'widow does not mourn in fringes, ribbons and embroidery; ' and an apostolical minister ought not to preach the word ' of God in a pompous style, full of affected ornaments (or 'quaint conceits.) The Pagans would not have endured to
see even a comedy so ill acted.'-Letter to the French Academy, p. 176.