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manner; we cannot regard it simply as a tion and feeling so that it will be impossinatural deficiency, nor express regret mere ble to affect them. In a similar manner, ly, but it must be viewed as a moral and also, will attention flag, under an excessive a culpable deficiency; one is bound to simplicity of address, and the finer moveobserve such incompetence in one's self, and ments of the affections will ever refuse one should abandon an employment which the bidding of a man who cannot satisfy is found to be beyond his reach : particu even the understanding. larly as in most cases, perseverance and Here I must expect the objecti that application would have compensated for the man who is prudent enough to make what was lacking to him of native talent. the above observations himself, needs noAnd indeed were his native talents of the thing beyond this very prudence in order greatest, it would still and forever be im to act in accordance with them, and to possible for him, to appreciate the habits adapt his discourse to the comprehension of thought prevailing in a circle of cultiva of the hearer-thus leaving the moral ted hearers, and to adapt his own to the qualities of the orator entirely out of the same, unless himself the possessor of a question. We admit that, with many a scientific and a learned education. This demagogue in Athens and Rome, such then he is under obligation to obtain; might really have been the case : such an ignorance with him is to be considered as example, however, proves nothing for us; a defect in character, and to be visited as for there, if any one had ventured to utter such with reprobation. And this shows any thing unintelligible, he would have us again how in the case of the orator the been driven from the forum by the hootactivity of all his mental faculties is under ings of the impatient assembly. In such a moral guidance.
a situation, where the absolute necessity In the acquisition of a learned and scien of following such a rule was apparent, tific culture, we have absolutely no limit one might, perhaps, dispense with the to propose to him; let him proceed as far assistance of moral qualities, which, under as he can; let him keep pace with his age other circumstances, are indispensable; or outstrip it; only let him never forget but because, forsooth, a bad man is driven that for him as orator, learning and science by constraint to adopt a particular course, are simply means, not end, and that he it does not follow that there is nothing should not make an exhibition of these of a moral nature involved in it, and that, various attainments at the expense of if restrictions were removed, both bad those moral ideas which must form the and good would succeed in it alike. Constaple of his discourse. This would be in sider for a moment the pulpit orator of itself immoral as an exhibition of vanity : our day, whose relation to his hearers is it would also be to overlook the capacity far less restricted, their reaction upon of the hearer, and would lead to the in him being by no means so offensive; how troduction of topics and discussion which difficult, and, indeed, impossible it seems would fatigue the attention of the public to be. often for men of the greatest wiswithout any good result, or would give dom, and not at all wanting in ability, to rise to indistinct ideas instead of clear con judge of the public, to keep their discourse ceptions; this would be the second and as at a just elevation, mounting neither too is self-evident, the equally moral error high nor descending too low for their which is forbidden by the canon of fitness hearers. Carried away by their own in reference to the capacity of the hearer. passion for scientific inquiry, they at one
In this adaptation of the discourse to time imagine their hearers possessed of the capacity of the hearer, which, as we like interest and capacity with themselves; have seen, is of moral origin, we discover at another time, they sink into commonthe first means of exciting the feelings. place, and tediously repeat and prolong In order to promote the hearer's interest the discussion of points already clear to in a train of ideas, it is absolutely neces the hearer's mind : and is not the first sary that the activity required of him an indication of excessive vanity, self-conshould not be wearisome ; in that case, ceit—acknowledged offences against mohe would soon become tire of it, and re rality? And does not the next, as every lapse into an inactivity which would ren lifeless adherence to custom, betray a der fruitless all further attempts made to want of wholesome energy of character ? interest him by the orator. And should Hence it appears, that this which is a he be disposed to pay attention to a dis very subordinate quality of eloquence, the course which, by its obscurity, puts his adaptation of the discourse to the underfaculties on the rack, yet these extraordi standing of the hearer, cannot be acquired nary efforts of his understanding will ope. without the possession of moral excellence. rate to suppress the activity of imagina- Should I succeed in creating a conviction
of the correctness of this position, I doubt not, I shall have performed no trifling service for those youths who design devoting themselves to eloquence. Science and scholarship prepare them for an office, in which science and scholarship may no longer be the chief object of their exertions, but must be made secondary to the higher object which they are to aid in reaching. But it will be exceedingly difficult for them to understand that this is a higher object, so long as they are taught in their preparatory course that science and scholarship are absolutely highest, taking precedence of every thing, not excepting religion and morality themselves. Vainly now are they admonished to exclude every thing scientific in matter and in form from their discourses; they despise this canon, which, in their view, savors of a weak spirit of compliance, and which, in truth, is habitually denounced as such by their instructors. In the lack of a professor's chair, they appropriate the pulpit to such a use, and heroically attempt to draw up the people to the elevated sphere in which they float. If at last they recover from their folly, they frequently sink dispirited into flat and insipid commonplace. Now, if this adapting of one's discourse to the comprehension of the auditors is not a mere politic compliance, but a truly moral proceeding, if the opposite course is unjustifiable, and if the question is presented in this light to a youth of noble spirit, he will readily conform to a rule which he finds instead of lowering, only dignifies and exalts him.
But the law of fitness requires not merely that the discourse should be adapted to the understanding, but also that the entire individuality of the hearer, his situation, his relations, the circumstances which affect his destiny, and which especially concern him, should be observed by the orator. And this kind of adaptedness is far more difficult to secure than the first; for this, it is necessary that we should know and keep in view the manifold elements of which the social, moral, and religious condition of man is composed, namely, the circle of his ideas and his experiences, the conceptions which are familiar or unusual with him, the images with which his imagination is mostly occupied, the more or less accurate ideal of good he has formed of social, moral, and religious perfection, his virtues and vices, his wishes and appetites, together with those special situations which are the result of rank, of wealth, of political events, of the condition of one's country and the church.
This fitness of the discourse seems to have been admitted to be a means of exciting the affections (which, indeed, in their sense mean passions) by the best masters of rhetoric; at least, I should be able to assign no other reason why Aristotle (Rhet., Lib. II., ch. 12-17) follows up his theory of the passions with a description of the moral condition of men as it is varied by their age, their rank, and their wealth, while he gives no clear account of any use which the orator is expected to make of this knowledge.
Cicero (De Orat. i. 5.), too, desires the orator to be an accomplished, sagacious man, who has comprehended the character of his hearers, their modes of thought, according to their age and rank; and he errs in this alone, that he expects from shrewdness and sagacity results which are best secured by morality. It is not at all impossible that a crafty spirit may succeed in discovering one or another weak side of a character, with the design of bringing it into leading-strings; yet, to gain an enlarged appreciation of the views, feelings, and condition of a man, so as to be able to operate with beneficent and ennobling results upon his character, something more than cunning is necessary; prudence, indeed, is necessary, but such a prudence as follows the guidance of conscientious feeling, and of a disinterested spirit which looks with a genial sympathy upon the various circumstances of men.
Nor may the knowledge thus attained of the hearer be employed to give countenance to his errors, or to flatter his passions ; but it must be used in the excitement of his affections, first, negatively, in order to avoid every thing which would wound or offend the hearer, and in regard to things, which though at first view seemingly indifferent, might be disagreeable to him. Without such forethought, it is vain to think of exciting the affections. It is in vain to speak with warmth and emphasis, in vain to the hearer, himself perfectly well disposed to the truth you are presenting, if
, on the road to the object which is sought to be gained, he is hindered or vexed by all sorts of annoyances, great and small. And this is not a faulty sensitiveness on his part, for the very demand I make upon him, to surrender himself up entirely to me in one respect, imposes upon me the duty of acting considerately towards him in every other respect, so far as possible. Hence it is the duty of the orator also, acting under the dictates of true moral wisdom, to circumvent all those obstacles which at the moment he
cannot overthrow—this is at once duty most powerful discourse; and we need and wisdom. The apostle Paul, to attain only examine the kind of dislike that is his great objects the easier, practised this excited, in order to see, that it is not the considerateness towards the prejudices of result of a lack of acuteness or of produchis contemporaries, and became all things tive genius in the orator, but far worse, to all men that by all means he might of moral feeling. Were a public too obsave some.
tuse to find cause of offence in such blunThe orators of antiquity, with perhaps ders (and this is the case oftener tharì we the single exception of Demosthenes, in are apt to suppose), it might indeed lighttheir ignorance of the true ground upon en the labors of the orator in one rewhich this obligation of propriety is based, spect, while in another it would impede practised a kind of artifice and coquetry, them; for just as the public would be inalike unbecoming in a person of dignity, sensible to improprieties in the discourse, as unsuited to the attainment of their end.
so it would fail to appreciate its fitness. When Cicero assumes an inability to re Flence we cannot but desire, for the oracall the name of Polycletus (Verrina iv. 3, tor, an audience so refined as to take ofWolf ad Leptineam, p. 300) and proceeds fence at the least unsuitable expression. as if it had been called out to him by some If such is not to be found, then he must one in the crowd, he intended, without seek to elevate his public to that standing, doubt, by this show of ignorance of Gre by manifesting a degree of respect for it cian history, to signify his assent to the which it will soon learn to prize and to opinion of the citizens, namely, that it understand. was unworthy of a statesman to occupy What he may venture upon, and what himself with such matters. For my own he must withhold, is a question to be depart, I can discern in it only an excuse for cided not according to the conjectures of a that compliance which in a right degree worldly wisdom, but according to the is proper to the orator-in this instance a principles of good morals; the severest moral wrong. Nor can I divine what ad and the strongest, if it is but appropriate, vantage he could expect to derive from if by his office and his calling he is requirsuch toying who knew how to put in ope ed to say it, will not prove offensive; it ration the most powerful of motives. will not weaken, it will further the operaBut such is the fate of all such endeavors tion of the discourse and promote the feelafter an object which has been too ing intended to be aroused. How refined narrowly conceived of; they become a was the feeling for appropriateness among mere effort after the form, without regard the Athenians in the days of Demosthenes, to substance. And this was early the fate and yet never did this orator hesitate to of ancient oratory, because its moral ele charge upon them with the greatest force ment was overlooked, and because it was and plainness their degeneracy, their eresteemed merely an instrument in attain rors and their weaknesses; and I am not ing ambitious ends.*
aware that his success was at any time If compliance pushed to such an ex hindered by this frankness, interwoven as treme is to be condemned, so the opposite it plainly was with his love to his country error, namely, that of offending against and to its existing constitution. Much existing and unalterable relations among less should the pulpit orator hesitate the hearers, is to be expounded as morally truthfully to depict the corruption of the wrong and as unwise. An offence of this
moral and religious nature of man, and to kind ruins at once the operation of the threaten the impenitent sinner with the
* An artifice of like character, only far more subtle and crafty, has been ascribed to Demosthenes, for the purpose of explaining the following passago in the oration for Kteriphon : "For I," says the speaker to Eschines, " and all them with mo, call theo a hireling first of Philip and now of Alexander! If thou doubtest, put the question to the audiencé; or I will put it for theo;—Is it your opinion, O men of Athens! that Æschinos was a hireling or a guest of Alexander ? Thou hearest what they say.” TIere, say the Scholia, Demosthenes intentionally placed the accent falsely in pronouncing the word Modwrds, and he announced the exclamation of the bystanders, who repeated the word with the correct accent, as an answer to his inquiry, and a declaration of their opinion that Æschines was a hireling. his explanation has been received by many on tho authority of the Scholia, and because the reader finds a certain entertainment in the discovery of such tricks in the orators; its correctness I must seriously question. Without doubt, that misplacement of the accent would have extremely offended the ears of the Athenians, and have brought out a clamor of corrections; but could even this mobile populace have suffered its words to have been perverted in its mouth, and framed into a decision adverse to seliines, when it simply aimed to correct the accents of Domosthenes ? But leaving this, if we only reflect upon what is due to the known character of Demosthenes in explaining his orations, its dignity, if only the half of it be acknowledged, is sufficient to clear him of the suspicion of having employed such pitiable devices; let us reflect that in this most tragical hour of his existence, his intensely occupied soul might well have emitted lightning-thoughts, but not havo tritled with accents. And besides, what were more natural tban to conjecture in explanation of this passage, than that among the audience he had, even at the beginning, a strong party upon whom he could depend for an appropriate response ? This far more suitable explanation is likewise found in the Scholia, who ascribe the response to Monander, the comic poet, one of the friends of the orator.
terrors of a future judgment. Whoever occasional discourses. In a sermon de omits to do this for fear of estranging his signed for the opening of a campaign, for hearers from him, overlooks the fact that a victory, or an occasion of public rejoicthe hearer involuntarily judges the orator ing, the preacher can take for granted in by moral rules only, and grants to him to his hearers, with far greater certainty than utter whatever he may utter with propri on ordinary occasions when the relations ety ;—that the most energetic reproofs are not so definite, certain prevalent views will not wound him, if he but sees that and opinions, certain hopes and fears, certhey are justified by the relation in which tain sentiments of joy and thankfulness; the speaker stands to him ; indeed that and if he can only in the exercise of a in the moral and religious nature of man little wisdom, draw together all their difthere exists a certain tendency closely al ferent rays, and throw these upon the lied with the taste for the sublime and truth in hand as upon a focal point, he the terrific, by reason of which the hearer will make it exceedingly effective in the is better content with an abasement of his hcarers' minds. Thus we explain why it feelings, such as may lead to an improved is that the effects of discourses preached state of mind, than with that superficial on feast days are often more decided emotion which is caused by the approach than are those of the usual Sabbath-day es of the flatterer. Thus the renowned
It is because to the first, the orator who preached before Louis XIV. hearer, however perverted he may be, and his court, ,-an audience which would nevertheless brings with him certain relinever have forgiven the slightest impropri- gious sentiments upon which the orator ety, employed all the terrors of religion, can easily fasten the thread of his disand often exercised the full judicial power of their office, and always with great It is, moreover, a part of this matter effect.
of fitness that the speaker should never While the fitness of a discourse pre
suffer himself to be elevated in his exvents any occasion of offence which might pressions, turns of thought and images, interfere with the desired movement of the above the language of social intercourse feelings, it contributes, moreover, directly among educated persons; even, if before to promote such a movement. For exam an audience competent to follow in such a ple, if the orator confines himself to such flight, and to understand more refined thoughts, images and allusions as calls up modes of expression. I am constrained to to the hearer's memory his own experi refer to this on account of those who exence and his own personal observations, pect by poetical ornament, by words which the discourse must operate with greatly they have collected with great research increased power. For the truth is thus from the dust of past centuries, and by not merely rendered clear to his mind, but constructions which are foreign to pure whilst he associates it with all which he prose, to give their discourses a peculiar himself has thought and felt, it takes a weight and dignity. This is, however, hold upon his entire inner nature, and nothing more than a cold and powerless creates that very ferment and agitation display, if indeed, as I take for granted, which we have named the affected con power means nothing but the efficacy of dition. Many an expression may be ap the discourse in affecting the mind. In propriate to the thoughts and intelligible the press of active life, under circumto the hearer; there may however be still stances of deep affliction, in the calm another, by the employment of which, a hours of meditation, did ever the hearer region of his thoughts before covered up cxpress his thoughts and feelings to himin obscurity, may suddenly be brought to self or to others in a highly figurative light, and which touches upon some of language, and in far-fetched modes of the manifold threads of which the web of speech ? Assuredly not. The expression his feelings is composed; this expression which couples itself with the quiet movethe orator should endeavor to find, and he ments of the mind as they present themis enabled to do this by studying his selves in our consciousness, is ever noble hearer under the influence of a true zeal as it is simple; if tho orator therefore for his welfare. Should he prefer to this would penetrate into our inner life and a different style, as easier and more renew there the traces of forgotten thoughts agreeable to himself, his course would and feelings, if he would indeed address us, be that of an egotist, and the inoperative let him make use of the familiar and cusness of the discourse would be his just tomary words in which we are wont to punishment. How powerful is the im hold converse with ourselves, Every pression made by the wise use of the strange expression, every singular turn, hearers' existing feelings, may be seen in hurries us as it were out of ourselves
instead of turning us inward, and the train of pious emotions, the speaker, as stream of inner harmonies, perhaps al often as he fittingly introduces it, is enready brought to flow, is suddenly inter abled to call up that movement of the rupted and dispersed. To this is added feelings which has already so often been the feeling of dislike to a man who decks connected with it, and thus, further, the himself out with a parade of sounding operation of the truth he is discussing, phrases, which after all it is not difficult On account of this great advantage, I to gather up, instead of speaking to his should deem it advisable to use Scripture own as well as to my real advantage in language even in those cases where we my own familiar language. Those very cannot presuppose an acquaintance with rare instances in which we choose a rare it on the part of the hearer, and where expression for an unusual thought, must it has never, as yet, contributed to the here, of course, be excluded; but to allow awakening of his inner life ; for thus by one's self, without a very peculiar inten employing it more frequently, that more tion in view, to deviate in the slightest thorough acquaintance with it, and that degree from the prevailing usage in lan influence upon the emotional nature guage is, in my opinion, improper, contra which we have described, will by degrees ry to a speaker's aim, and hence liable to be effected. a moral reproach.
But now the thing which hinders the The employment of the language of orator in thoroughly understanding his Scripture is by no means included in this hearer's views, is learning to speak their expression of disapproval; on the con own language, and in exciting the feelings trary, if the espressions and figures of by the appropriateness of his style: this Holy Writ are not introduced simply to again is naught but moral delinquency. fill up a vacant place, but if retaining a Especially prominent is that self-pleasing sense of their true worth and power, they vanity which desires only the gratification are inwrought into the discourse, their fre of expressing itself easily and agreeably, quent use is to be recommended to pulpit and which shuns the difficult and often orators, as a highly suitable and efficaci violent effort which is needful in order to ous method of exciting the hearer's affec come forth out of one's self and enter tion. Highly suitable ; for Scripture lan sympathizingly into the circle of another's guage can never grow old, presenting as individuality. From this defect it is that, it does so many expressions full of mean among other specimens of pulpit eloquence, ing for the manifold conditions of life and we have those artfully constructed and of the human spirit, not a few of which flowery discourses, which, although in are current proverbs in the language of consequence of their adaptedness to work every-day intercourse; and though reli upon the hearer's fancy, they often receive gious education and the reading of the enthusiastic commendation (thus men genBible, may, to some degree, be neglected, erally, under the blinding influence of yet the orator may count securely upon their own vanity, fail to judge and to having his thought understood far sooner punish that of others so severely as it in a Scriptural than in a philosophical deserves), yet their idle trifling with garb. But the great power of Scripture thoughts and words can produce only an language to move the affections, consists imbecile void ; never a state of feeling mainly in this, that in it the expression favorable to great and noble decisions in for the understanding, and that for the the mind. In the next place we mention a feeling is not distinct, as in human modes kind of shyness unfavorable to this active of presenting truth, but is always one and method which is to be found in noble and the same; the images of which it makes refined natures, which embarrass them such frequent use, combine with the accu in entering upon the relations of their racy of an abstract terminology, the ad hearers, in grasping their hearts with a vantage of interweaving the idea into the strong hand, and so in giving to their mode web of human relations, and of associa of discourse a fitness such as will move ting it with all the conceptions which have the emotions. In case the speaker enpower to work upon the emotional nature tirely abandons himself to the truth under of man.
They are a ray of combined discussion, unfolds it with the greatest light and heat that passes from the spirit care, but touches only superficially and into the heart, and how should it not in in general terms upon the relations under flame the whole man? If now it should which it should be realized, so that he happen, as indeed is often the case, that hits nowhere and hurts no one, then we an expression drawn from Scripture, up may assuredly suspect the existence of on first acquaintance with it, or upon this timidity. Similar reprobation, if no succeeding occasions, has awakened a greater is deserved, and like enervating