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There are a thousand other ways in which the preacher may, by carelessness, or by habit, divert the attention of his audience from the matter in hand.
Dr. Porter says,
-" In minor points, what constitutes decorum depends not on philosophy nor accident, but on custom. From real or affected carelessness on such points, the preacher may fix on some trivial circumstance, that attention of his hearers, which should be devoted to greater things. He may do this, for example, by standing much too high, or too low in the pulpit; by rising, as in the act of commencing his sermon, before the singing is closed; or delaying for so long an interval as to excite apprehension that something has befallen him; by an awkward holding his Psalm-book, or especially his Bible, with one side hanging down or doubled backwards; by drawing his hands behind him, or thrusting them into his clothes." —He will as certainly accomplish this object, by adopting awkward and false attitudes, by any unusual contortions of the features of the face, by fingering the leaves of the Bible, by handling his handkerchief too frequently, or by any other misuse of his hands. For a specification of particulars under these heads, see lists of errors appended to Sections III, IV, and V, of Chap. I, Part II.
The voice of the speaker also may be instrumental in turning aside the attention of the hearer. The commencing on too low or too high a note; with too full or too feeble a voice; the employment of a drawling manner, or of any peculiar tones or quality of the voice; any unusual mode of announcing the text, or the hymn,—these are but a
agitation, so that I fancied, at first, he was pressing some important point of morality. But he was only giving notice, that on the Sunday following, he would preach on repentance. I was extremely surprised to hear so indifferent a thing uttered with so much vehemence."
few examples of the various ways in which the teacher of divine truth may himself contribute to destroy the effect of his own instructions.-Of the saine character is the misapplied use of the Vocule,* as when heard at the close of sentences in prayer, and sometimes in the delivery of sermons from the pulpit, to the entire destruction of devotional feeling in the heart of every one whose ear is not equally insensible to all the beauties as well as the defects of delivery
Second.— The preacher's manner should be characterized by reverence and modesty.—He should feel reverence for the place, as the sanctuary of the Most High ; and modesty, as being what he is, only by grace. In view of the first of these principles, “ Gesture,” in the language of Dr. Porter, “is felt to be unseasonable in personating God, and in addresses made to him. When we introduce him as speaking to man, or when we speak of his adorable perfections, or to him in prayer, the sentiments inspired demand composure
and reverence of manner. Good taste then can never approve the stretching upward of the hands at full length, in the manner of Whitefield, at the commencement of prayer; nor the frowning aspect and the repelling movement of the hand, with which many utter the sentence of the final judge, Depart, ye cursed,' &c.” Good taste, on the same general principle, also cannot fail to condemn any thing like a low anecdote, or a jest, in the pulpit.
* I have recently seen this characterized, in some one of our religious newspapers, as the “pious grunt.” By whatever name called, it cannot but be in a high degree offensive to any but the most perverted taste.
Pathetic exhortation; and to address
In regard to the last of these principles, Austin, himself a clergyman, remarks : « If, on ordinary occasions, and in the common business of life, modesty of countenance and manner be a commendable grace in a public speaker ; such modesty is much more to be desired, or is rather indispensable, in the sacred orator. When he pours out the public prayers to God, when he reads and expounds his laws; he cannot fail to recollect, that he is himself equally obnoxious to their sanctions, and equally in need of mercy as his congregation; and that he kneels only as one among the supplicants, and that he stands up only as one among the guilty before his unerring judge. Vanity and presumption in such a situation would be more than indecorous. Humility is the proper characteristic of a Christian minister.” « But this humility,” it is very properly added, “is not incompatible with earnestness of manner, nor with the just confidence which every public speaker should appear to have in the truth of what he delivers."
It is on this general principle, that the use of the free Diatonic Melody, or of the strongly marked Downward Slides, would be improper in the language of prayer, or in reading or repeating the words in which God has chosen to address mankind. It is thus that all personal invective, whether by word or action, and every tone and look expressive of indignation, are excluded. It is on this account likewise, that all the artifices of the stage
All attitude and stare And start theatric, practiced at the glass, are excluded from the sacred desk. Cicero censures the
atrical action even at the bar; how much less appropriate is it to the pulpit! Even the orator's art is employed here, only to give expression to real feeling. Every species of cant or affectation is then excluded from the pulpit; and why should it not be, when a firm belief in the truth of the principles to be inculcated, and a serious feeling of their importance, remove all necessity of any affectation, either of voice or manner? Such belief and such feeling, on the part of the preacher, says Dr. Blair, “ will always give an earnestness and strength, a fervor of piety to his exhortations, superior in its effects to all the arts of studied eloquence; and, without it, the assistance of art will seldom be able to conceal the mere declaimer.”
Without the Christian sensibility here referred to, and that expansion and elevation of soul which can arise only from a just feeling of religious truth, it is admitted that all the arts of elocution are vain to constitute a Christian minister. These are presupposed, as at the very basis of Christian oratory; since, without them, preaching, with every attraction that can be thrown about it, will be but cas sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.” It is, however, perfectly consistent with this admission, that the religious teacher should do all in his power to improve his taste and judgment, as to the most effective means of giving expression to his feelings; and that he should train his voice to the execution of all that a taste thus improved can direct. And this can scarcely be done, but by the study of elocution according to some good system. Without such study, Christian sensibility often expresses itself in an almost unbroken Monotone, rendered perhaps still more offensive by the constant employment of the Chromatic Melody, or of the Tremor,--elements of great power when properly employed, but never intended to be desecrated by constant
Indeed the pulpit is very specially exposed to monotony, while the dialogue of the stage almost effectually excludes it; and even in the senate and at the bar, a free colloquial style of delivery is much more naturally and universally adopted.
Third.— The preacher should never seem, by any peculiarity of manner, to lose the command of himself. In addition, then, to improving the taste and cultivating the voice by study, the Christian orator should discipline his will to a perfect self-possession. Calmness and collectedness of manner alone seem accordant with the solemn grandeur of his work. To such self-possession, a perfect command of the gestures greatly contributes, because by restraining the action when it is in danger of becoming excessive, a more perfect control is preserved over the mental excitement; and even aside from this, such restraint may conceal the strong workings of passions, which though the speaker may feel, it may not be expedient for him fully to express.
The action of the pulpit differs from that of the stage only in degree. It is performed by the same beings, by the use of the same instruments, and for the same general purposes. It cannot, then, be expected to differ, in all respects, from the action of the theatre; but only so far as it is put forth under different conditions. One of these conditions, and the one to which our attention is here chiefly directed, is that the preacher is not at liberty to indulge in any public expressions of excitement, which can properly be construed into a violation of the principles of self-respect, or of true dignity of character. Such, I conceive to be all bawling and vociferation in the pulpit—a vice of pulpit oratory always condemned, yet practiced by too many, regardless alike of its destructive effects on themselves, and of its unfitness for their purposes. Such also is the smiting