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and which, as it is to be met with only in books, may with propriety be called the book language. Hence, originated necessities which threw the modern orator, and especially the preacher, into an embarrassment, of which the ancient orators knew nothing.* If, for instance, the preacher makes use altogether of those expressions which are universally known and employed in common life, he offends what is called the reading public,—a class of people accustomed to a language of a higher cast, which they have acquired, if in no other way, by reading novels and romances, and, who of course lonk upon the preacher's language, as too vulgar,—and hence, cannot endure it. If, on the other hand, the preacher uses the book language or mingles it with the other, he renders himself upintelligible to those who do not read, and addresses himself to them in words and phrases in which they cannot think. Such being the embarrassing and conflicting wants and demands of the modern world, it is almost impossible for a man to do justice to every individual of a very mixed audience, composed of the learned and the unlearned. At least, I am certain that I should not succeed in attempting to pursue a middle course, which, while it pleased the educated, should be intelligible to the uneducated. Hence, I have ever considered it as a cause of great congratulation, that my public audiences have always been of a uniform characier and well acquainted with the book language. This fact has justified me in writing, nay, obliged me to write, as I have done, whereas, if I had been a country minister, or obliged to preach to mixed assemblies, I should have proceeded in a manner entirely different, and endeavored to use the language between those two extremes, of which I have already spoken. With these remarks before them, intelligent hearers will not find it difficult to ascertain, what parts of my sermons are not written in a sufficiently popular style, and hence, what parts and phrases they should by no means think of imitating.
One of the great faults of my sermons, is, a too frequent use of certain figures of speech, especially the interrogation. It does indeed give a discourse more vivacity and impression, to transform those positions which the preacher deems of especial importance to the bearers, into questions, addressed immediately to the decision as it were, of their judgments. But I cannot deny, that I have sometimes introduced this mode of speech where it was inappropriate, and every thing would have been better, categorically expressed. Besides, the too frequent use of this figure creates a uniformity which is disagreeable. Indeed, a man who makes a too frequent use of the interrogation, will fail of accomplishing his object. The very fact, that it is often introduced and rendered as it were common, will deprive it of all effect. That it increases the difficulty of uttering a discourse and occasions a greater exertion of the lungs, I will not even mention. Here and there I have also too frequently introduced the exclamation. I believe, bowever, that I have made a bad use of this figure, less frequently than of the other.
* Chrysostom, however, early began to complain of something of the same kind. De Sacerdot, 1, V. c, 1. seqq.
The art of making the transitions from one division or sub-division to another in a natural and easy manner, has something in it altogether peculiar. These transitions may be compared to the joints of a body. Without joints the body would be stiff and helpless, and without those of sufficient pliability, be racked with every movement. That I have taken great pains to connect the parts of my sermons together in a natural and easy manner, is a thing of which I am perfectly conscious. I have never succeeded, however, in doing justice to myself in this respect. On the other hand, the transitions of many of my sermons, are not only sometimes unnatural and constrained, but of ten too uniform. The former appears to me to be frequently the case with the connexions of the grand divisions. With all my efforts so to add the main parts to each other, that they should seem to rise of their own accord, I have often come far short of success. I hope, therefore, that none who read my sermons will take them as correct guides in this respect, but aim at a far higher degree of perfection. The other fault, or too great uniformity in the transitions, is particularly conspicuous in the sub-divisions. Often, indeed, these transitions are quite easy and natural, especially when the words with which
a division closes, remind the reader of, and prepare him for, the succeeding one ;* when the grand division is of such a character, that one part follows from another; and finally, when there is a gradation in the parts. If, however, any person reads a number of my sermons in succession, he will find these easy and natural transitions frequently returning, and too little diversified. This is a subject, also, upon which those must reflect, who wish to render their discourses highly perfect.
In discourses which are accurately arranged and divided into the parts which are to be closely remarked upon and impressed upon the memory, nothing is more natural, than that one should frequently avail himself of that kind of transition which the ancient rhetoricians called complexion. This mode of concluding a point is extremely appropriate, because it repeats the explained and proved series of thought, ordinarily in the very same expressions in which it was originally stated, and again as it were, recommends it to the memory. From the whole construction of my sermons, every thing they contained, being divided into parts as the principal subjects of remarks and reflections, I was almost necessarily inclined, to make a frequent use of the complexion; in part, for the perfection of every division ; and in part, for the sake of an easy transition from one subject to another, making the progression of the whole treatise the more obvious, and rendering it easy for the hearer to draw the conclusion. Even in this respect, however, I have not always observed due moderation. I have often used the complexion with too great uniformity, even where it might have been omitted, without doing any prejudice to the discourse; and I might, and for the sake of variety, should, have selected a more appropriate mode of connexion and transition. Here then is another imperfection which every one should seek to avoid, in working out his discourses.
I have always had considerable difficulty in making a proper use of pronouns. Indeed, I have taken great pains so to use them, that all ambiguity by the reference of them
* Upon this subject consult Wächter's masterly but too laudatory analysis of one of my sermons, in the second volume of the Allgem, praktisch. Bibliothek für l'rediger und Schulmanner. S. 165 f.
to a wrong antecedent should be impossible, and yet have
A passage commencing, Gott hat unsern
I might bring forward a multitude of examples to show you, that the expressions of my sermons are not always as definite and excellent, nor as easy, as they ought to be; and that they might often have been rendered more agreeable and harmonious. I should weary your patience, however, my dear friend, as well as that of my readers, if I should do so. If you wish to see a very imperfect passage, you may consult the first sub-division of the first part of the
* [We have the same difficulty to contend with in the English language, as every writer knows from experience; but it is greatly dimmished by our philosophical use of nouns in regard to gender, and the power we have of frequently conferring upon neutral objects an artificial gender, or, in other words, of availing ourselves of the aid of personification; so that, in many cases, our language has all the advantages of the German in this respect, without being embarrassed with its disadvantages.]
above quoted Reformation Sermon.* I fatter myself, indeed, with the hope, that there are few more so. At least, I have not stumbled upon many as imperfect, myself. I must acknowledge, however, that I never sit down to read any of my sermons with a critical eye, without finding single expressions, turns, and even whole periods, which might have been written far better, as you will readily believe. Indeed, I never arise from such a reading, with
any real satisfaction, but generally with pain, on reflecting, that, with all my labor and diligence, I have come far short of satisfactorily and truly representing what my mind had conceived, as my own feelings required it should be; and even now, with all my experience, 1 come far short of the standard of excellence to which I wish to attain.
The venerable Blessig who has sought in so kind and honorable a manner to introduce me to the French public, has expressed a wish, that, out of my numerous sermons, a selection of a few volumes of the best, might be made and published, as a kind of legacy to posterity.f I doubt, my friend, very much, whether posterity will care any thing about such a legacy. And then, who is to make the selection ? and, if it were made, as it would contain nothing new, who would print it? Farewell.
* [The author enters into a criticism of this passage, which occupies about six pages, which, together with several other criticisms, is, for obvious reasons, omiited, though a reference is made to every passage.]
+ See a notice appended to the French translation of my Reformation Sermon of 1807, published at Strasburg, p. 47.