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The more I read this orator, the clearer it appeared to me, that true eloquence is something entirely different from an artificial fluency of speech; something entirely different from playing with antitheses and witty expressions; something entirely different from poetical prose, or as Kant calls it, prose run mad; and finally, something entirely different from that storminess and vehemence, that sputtering and foaming, and that bombast and turgidness, at which the great mass of the people are astonished because of their ignorance. If then, said I to myself, for this was the inference which I drew, if then I can so speak in the pulpit that my discourse shall always constitute a well arranged whole, firmly united in all its parts, and continued in the most natural order; if I can always bring forward such matter as stands in close connexion with the most important concerns of my hearers and is of utility to them in practical life; if I can do this so that every thought shall always be clothed in those words, which, of all the treasures of the language, distinguish it in the best and most striking manner; if consequently, I can in teaching always find the most intelligible, in writing the most obvious, in admonishing the most powerful, in warning the most terrific, in consoling the most comforting, expressions; if I can avail myself of language so that every shading of the thoughts, every turn of the feelings, every climax of the passions, shall be rendered manifest by it, and always made to touch those cords of the heart which they ought to do; finally, if I can procure for my discourse a fulness without bombast, an euphony without artificial rhythm, and an easy uninterrupted current which overflows, pouring itself as it were into the ear and the heart; if I can do all this, it will constitute the eloquence which is adapted to the pulpit. Then my discourse will be clear for the intellect, easy to be remembered, exciting to the feelings and captivating to the heart. Then I shall speak of religion with that perfect simplicity, exalted dignity, and benevolent warmth, with which we ought always to speak of it.
The idea of genuine eloquence thus drawn out of the ancients in general, but out of Cicero and Demosthenes in particular, became so thoroughly my own, that nothing
could please me which did not accord with it; and it constituted the ideal perfection at which I afterwards aimed in working out my own sermons. That on the other hand, I said that no use could or ought to be made by the religious teacher, of those arts of which the ancients availed themselves in their oratory, for the purpose of giving a good appearance to the vilest cause, infatuating the hearers with dazzling things, and inducing them to engage in rash undertakings by exciting their passions, will, I presume, be taken for granted. It is true, that that part of ancient eloquence which can be retained in the pulpit, had not then been so acutely and happily pointed out as it has been of late by Schott, in his Sketch of a theory of eloquence, with a particular application to pulpit eloquence.* The ancient rhetoricians, however, speak of the dishonest artifices of which orators were obliged to avail themselves both on the stage, and before the tribunal, with so much frankness, that one must immediately feel them to be neither practicable nor necessary in matters of religion.
The want of instruction in homiletics, however, and the omission of homiletic exercises was rendered uninjurious to me in particular, by the study of philosophy. I cannot deny, that the philosophical sciences, for which, while at school I felt no inclination, presented me with irresistible attractions, as soon as I began to attend to them at the university. It was not long before I esteemed them for their own sake. Without thinking of any use to which I could apply them, under the influence of a love of the truth, I made them an object of study and became filled with a sense of their immense importance. Almost every day convinced me of the necessity of searching after something tangible and pacifying in this respect, and drove me on to new and incessant exertions. Even while a student, therefore, I devoted a great part of my time to philosophy, and exerted all my strength to form an intimate acquaintance with the philosophemes of the acute Crusius, in all their extent. As, in addition to this, I afterwards began to teach philosophy and was obliged to lecture upon
Kurzer Entwurf einer Theorie der Beredtsamkeit mit besondrer Anwendang auf die Canzelberedtsamkeit; Leips., 1807.
it, so, for several years, it constituted, as I shall hereafter remark, my principal occupation. To calculate the advantage I should derive from this zealous and uninterrupted attention to philosophy as an exercise preparatory to preaching, was a thing I never thought of, being then influenced by my love for the study itself. It was not until afterwards, that I perceived I could not have gone through better exercises preparatory to entering upon the sacred office.
Having by the diligent and long-continued study of philosophy, become acquainted with an immense number of subjects standing in various and intimate relations to Christianity, it was not easy for me to be troubled with a want of materials when I began to preach. Having also accustomed myself to treat every thing methodically and agreeably to the rules of logic, and thus gradually acquired the power of apprehending the connexion, organization, and various relations of all systems, it was not easier for me to form the plan of a sermon or handle a religious doctrine, without order. In short, that activity of thought which enables a man to become perfect master of his subject, whatever it may be, and mould it according to his pleasure, can be acquired only by the study of philosophy; but a small share of this skill will enable any one who possesses it, to form the plan of a sermon with facility. If therefore there is any thing indispensable to a preparation for the ministerial office, it is, in my opinion, the study of philosophy. Not indeed that I would introduce philosophy into the pulpit, or give myself up to vain speculations; but in part, because it furnishes a man with a large stock of materials, and in part, because it enables one to treat every subject in a clear and radical manner, and agreeably to the circumstances and relations of the time and place.* No one will, in reality, be able to speak upon religious truths in a manner clear, simple, easy, and intelligible, without having a genuine philosophical knowledge of them,
* Nec vero sine philosophorum disciplina genus et speciem cuiusque rei cernere, neque eam definiendo explicare, nec tribuere in partes possimus ; nec iudicare, quae vera, quae falsa sint; neque cernere consequentia, repugnantia videre, ambigua distinguere. Quid dicam de natura rerum, cuius cognitio magnam orationi suppeditat copiam ; de vita, de officiis, de virtute, de moribus, sine multa earum ipsarum rerum disciplina aut dici, aut intelligi potest? Cicero in Orator. c. 5.
and being complete master of all ideas connected with
Finally, the zeal with which I applied myself to philosophy, furnished an excellent remedy for the defects of my not having attended either to philosophical or theological ethics. As I was anxious to become acquainted with philosophy in its whole extent, and was ultimately called upon to teach it, so I was obliged to make myself familiar with its practical parts, as well as its theoretical. Accordingly, by my own diligence, I supplied the defects of my original education. And here also my love of ancient literature turned to good account. With the systematic study of practical philosophy I began occasionally to combine reading the ancient moralists; particularly Plato, Aristotle, Arrian, Plutarch, and Seneca. He who is acquainted with these writers, knows what treasures of moral truths are heaped together in their works, and what life, power, and practical utility, may be derived from a systematic knowledge of ethics, if with it we combine a profitable reading of these writers. Many of them, particularly the Dissertationes Epicteteae of Arrian, the moral treatises of Plutarch, and some works of Seneca, became of so much importance to me in these circumstances, that I read them often, and always with additional profit in respect to the enlargement and correction of my ethical information. In general, practical philosophy became more interesting to me, the longer I occupied myself with it. Afterwards, I gradually passed over to the best moralists of modern times; and, what proved of very great usefulness to me, began to read the best historians and poets of every age,
Here we may adduce the testimony of a man who knew best what was
with an exclusive reference to ethics.* That this course very much facilitated the execution of the work upon Christian ethics, in which, by virtue of my office as teacher of theology, I was obliged to engage, is self-evident. My system of Christian morality every where exhibits. marks of the great influence exerted upon me by these preparatory exercises; and reference is every where made to the writers to whom I am the most indebted.
I did not perceive all the benefit I had derived from this method of studying morality, however, until I began to preach. That the preacher must possess a systematic knowledge of morality, if he would go to the foundation in handling moral truths, is unquestionable. This, of itself, however, is by no means sufficient. The preacher must be acquainted with the human heart, and familiar with all its movements, inclinations, and artifices. He must have examined the various dispositions and characters of men, and must know what difficulties and hindrances stand opposed to the practice of godliness in general, and virtue in particular. He must have the most salutary advice at hand requisite for every case, and, in short, what is and always will be, of the most importance in his circumstances, be possessed of practical wisdom. That the only way of acquiring this, is, by paying incessant attention to one's own heart, and those things which we find opportunity to notice, connected with a diligent reading of those authors who have shown themselves well acquainted with human nature, and written expressly for life, needs no proof. Among these, however, the old classic authors maintain so high a rank, that few others can be compared with them.
1 frankly admit, therefore, that they and their best moralists, in connexion with the Bible, which I read incessantly, constituted my preacher's magazine. By them I have been led to a multitude of reflections, not only of practical utility, but very great importance. By them I have been enabled to find a thousand things in the moral precepts of the Bible, which, without this index, would forever have escaped me. I have no fears, my dear friend,
* Quintilian, Institut. Orator. 1. XII. c. 4,
+ Hence, Quintilian wished to have ethics included in rhetoric. Instit. Orat. 1. XII. c. 2, § 9 seqq.