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ensnare the frail and thoughtless into guilt, shall virtue and religion hold forth no charms to engage votaries ?. Pleasure decks herself out with rich attire. Soft are her looks, and melting is the sweetness of her voice. And must religion present herself with every disadvantage? Must she appear quite unadorned? What chance can she then have, in competition with an enemy so much better furnished with every necessary invitation and allurement? Alas! our preachers do not address innocents in paradise; but thoughtless and often habituated sinners. Mere cold explaining will have but little effect on such. Weak is the hold which reason has on most minds. Few have able heads; but all have hearts, and all hearts may be touched, if the speaker is master of his art. The business is not so much to open the understanding, as to warm the heart. There are few, comparatively speaking, who do not know their duty. To allure them to the doing of it, is the difficulty. This will never be effected by cold reasoning, either read or delivered in such a a manner as to disgust, or lull the congregation to sleep. Can it be supposed, that an audience is to be warmed to the love of virtue, by a cold though learned oration, either ill-read, or, what is worse, wretchedly delivered? Can it be supposed, that a preacher will win the affections of his hearers, whilst he neglects all the natural means for working upon their passions? Will he kindle in them that burning zeal which suits the most important of all subjects, by talking to them with all the coolness of a stoic philosopher, of the terrors of the Lord, of the worm that never dies, and the fire that is not quenched, and of future glory, honor, and immortality, of everlasting kingdoms and heavenly thrones?
Bid preachers labor to acquire a masterly delivery, places of public instruction would be crowded, as well as places of public diversion. Rakes and infidels, merely to show their taste, would frequent them. Could all frequent them, and none profit? It is not supposable, but some who came to scoff, might remain to pray. That such a manner might be acquired, there is no reason to doubt, if preachers were only to bestow due pains to obtain it. What time and labor is requisite to acquire even a tolerable knowledge of the Latin language 1 Were only one half of these spent upon the art of delivery, what an astonishing degree of improvement would take place in all kinds of public speaking; What infinite advantage would accrue to pulpit oratory! Let us only reflect for a moment, upon the time necessary to acquire a competent knowledge of any of the mechanical arts. A tailor, a shoemaker, or a blacksmith, must be under a master five, generally seven years, before he is capable of setting up for himself. Are these arts more difficult to obtain than the art of oratory? And yet, the preacher goes into the pulpit at once, without having had one lesson, or article of instruction in this part of his art, towards gaining the end of preaching. What could be imagined more elegant, if entertainment alone were sought; what more useful, if the good of mankind were the object, than the sacred function of preaching, properly performed. Were the most interesting of all subject* delivered to listening crowds, with that dignity which becomes a teacher of divine truth, and with that energy, which would show that the preacher spoke from his own heart, and meant to speak to the hearts of his hearers, what effects might not follow?
It has been observed, "that mankind are not wood or stone; that they are undoubtedly capable of being roused and startled; that they may be drawn and allured. The voice of an able preacher, thundering out the divine threatenings against vice, would be in the ear of the offender, as if he heardthe sound of the last trumpet summoning the dead to judgment. And the gentle call of mercy, encouraging the terrified and almost despairing penitent, to look up to his offended heavenly Father, would seem as the song of angels. A whole multitude might be lifted to the skies. The world of spirits might be opened to the eyes of their minds. The terrors of that punishment which awaits vice; the glories of that state to which, through divine favour, the pious will be raised, might be, by a powerful preacher, rendered present to their understanding, with such conviction, as would make indelible impressions upon their hearts, and work a substantial reform in their lives."
ON THEATRICAL MANNER.
It Is an old trick, says Walker, to depreciate what we cannot attain; and calling a spirited pronunciation "Theatrical", is but an artful method of hiding our own inability of speaking with force and energy. But though persons studying Pulpit, Forensic, or Senatorial eloquence ought not, perhaps, to be taught those nice touches which form the greatest difficulties in the profession of an actor, they should not be too much restrained from an exertion of voice, so necessary to strengthen the vocal organs, because they may sometimes be too loud and vociferous. Perhaps nine out of ten, instead of too violent a manner of speaking, which these persons seem so much to dread, have as Dr. Johnson calls it, a frigid equahty, a stupid langor, and a torpid apathy. These must be roused by something strong and excessive, or they will never rise even to mediocrity; while the few who have a tendency to rant are very easily reclaimed,—and ought to be treated in pronunciation and action as Quintilian advises us to do in composition; that is, we should rather allow of an exhuberance, than by too much correctness, check the vigor and luxuriance of nature. But, say our clerical friends, this intense style will not do in the pulpit. Perhaps the best and most conclusive answer to this objection is the simple fact, that those preachers whose manner is said to be theatrical, are the men who are always the most popular, and who have been instrumental in doing the most good.
The Bishop of London once asked Garrick, why it was that actors, in representing mere fiction, should move a whole assembly, even to tears, while ministers of the gospel, in representing the most solemn realities, could scarcely obtain a hearing? The philosophical actor justly replied, "It is because we represent fiction as reality, and you represent reality as fiction." This is telling the whole story. Now what is the design of the actor in a theatrical representation? It is so to throw himself into the spirit and meaning of the author, as to adopt his sentiments, make them his own, feel them, embody them, throw them out upon the audience as living reality. And, what is the objection to all this in preaching? The actor suits the action to the word, and the word to the action. His looks, his hands, his attitudes, and every thing are designed to express the full meaning of the writer. And certainly this ought to be the aim of the preacher. And if by theatrical be meant the strongest possible representation of the sentiments expressed, then the more theatrical a preacher is the better. And if ministers are too stiff, and the people too fastidious to adopt a more earnest manner, which would be the best method of swaying mind, of enforcing sentiment, and diffusing the warmth of burning thought over a congregation, then they must go on with their frigid, apathetic prosing, and churches and chapels will still continue to be thinly attended, while places of amusement will be crowded.
THE DYING INFIDEL.
People doubt because they will doubt. Dreadful disposition! Can nothing discover thine enormity? What is infidelity good for? By what charm doth it lull the soul into a willing ignorance of its origin and end? If, during the short space of a mortal life, the love of independence tempt us to please ourselves with joining this monstrous party; how dear will the union cost us when we come to die!
O! were my tongue dipped in the gall of celestial displeasure, I would describe to you the state of a man expiring in the cruel uncertainties of unbelief; who seeth, in spite of himself, yea, in spite of himself, the truth of that religion, which he hath endeavoured, to no purpose, to eradicate from his heart. Ah 1 see! every thing contributes to trouble him now. "I am dying—I despair of recovering— physicians have given me over—the sighs and tears of my friends are useless—yet they have nothing else to bestow—medicines take no effect—consultations come to nothing—alas! not yau—not my little fortune—the world cannot cure me—I must die—it is not a preacher—it is not a religous book—it is not a trifling declaimer— it is death itself that preacheth to me—I feel, I know not what, shivering cold in my blood—I am in a dying sweat—my feet, my hands, every part of my body is wasted—I am more like a corpse than a living body—I am rather dead than alive—I must die— Whither am I going? What will become of me? What will become of my body? My God! what a frightful spectacle! I see it! the horrible torches—the dismal shroud—the coffin—the pall— the tolling bell—the subterranean abode—carcasses—worms— putrefaction—what will become of my soul? I am ignorant of its destiny— I am tumbling headlong into eternal night—my infidelity tells me, my soul is nothing but a portion of subtile matter—another world a vision—immortality a fancy—But yet, I feel, I know not what, that troubles my infidelity—annihilation, terrible as it is, would appear tolerable to me, were not the ideas of heaven and hell to present themselves to me, in spite of myself—But I see that heaven, that immortal mansion of glory shut against me—I see it at an immense distance—I see it a place, which my crimes forbid me to enter—I see a hell—hell, which I have ridiculed—it opens under my feet—I hear the horrible groans of the damned—the smoke of the bottomless pit chokes my words, and wraps my thoughts in suffocating darkness."
Such is the infidel on a dying bed. This is not an imaginary flight: it is not an arbitrary invention, it is a description of what we see every day in the fatal visits to which our ministry engageth us, and to which God seems to call us to be sorrowful witnesses of his displeasure and vengeance. This is what infidelity comes to. This is what infidelity is good for. Thus most sceptics die, although, while they live, they pretend to free them from vulgar errors. I ask again, what charms are there in a state that hath such dreadful consequences? How is it possible for men, rational men, to carry their madness to such an excess?