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Title: Oratory Sacred and Secular - Or, the Extemporaneous Speaker, With Sketches of the Most - Eminent Speakers of All Ages
Author: Pittenger, William
Language: English
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                          SACRED AND SECULAR:
                        Extemporaneous Speaker,

                          BY WILLIAM PITTENGER,
                    Author of “Daring and Suffering.”


                                New York:

        Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868,
                          By SAMUEL R. WELLS.
 In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States, for
                   the Southern District of New York.

   20 North William Street.



When we first began to speak in public, we felt the need of a manual
that would point out the hindrances likely to be met with, and serve as
a guide to self-improvement. Such help would have prevented many
difficult and painful experiences, and have rendered our progress in the
delightful art of coining thought into words more easy and rapid. In the
following pages we give the result of thought and observations in this
field, and trust it will benefit those who are now in the position we
were then.

We have freely availed ourself of the labor of others, and would
especially acknowledge the valuable assistance derived from the writings
of Bautain, Stevens and Holyoake. Yet the following work, with whatever
merit or demerit it may possess, is original in both thought and

We have treated general preparation with more than ordinary fullness,
for although often neglected, it is the necessary basis upon which all
special preparation rests.

As the numerous varieties of speech differ in comparatively few
particulars, we have treated one of the most common—that of preaching—in
detail, with only such brief notices of other forms as will direct the
student in applying general principles to the branch of oratory that
engages his attention.

We are not vain enough to believe that the modes of culture and
preparation pointed out in the following pages are invariably the best,
but they are such as we have found useful, and to the thoughtful mind
may suggest others still more valuable.


 PREFACE.—Objects of the Work stated                                   3

 INTRODUCTION—By Hon. JOHN A. BINGHAM, Member of Congress              7

                    =PART I.=—_GENERAL PREPARATIONS._

                               CHAPTER I.


                               CHAPTER II.

 PREREQUISITES—Intellectual Competency; Strength of Body; Command of
   Language; Courage; Firmness; Self-reliance                         18

                              CHAPTER III.

 BASIS OF SPEECH—Thought and Emotion; Heart Cultivation; Earnestness  27

                               CHAPTER IV.

 ACQUIREMENTS—General Knowledge; of Bible; of Theology; of Men;
   Method by which such Knowledge may be obtained                     35

                               CHAPTER V.

 CULTIVATION—Imagination; Language; Voice; Gesture; Confidence;
   References to Distinguished Orators and Writers.                   42

                         =PART II.=—_A SERMON._

                               CHAPTER I.

 THE FOUNDATION FOR A PREACHER—Subject; Object; Text; Hints to Young
   Preachers                                                          69

                               CHAPTER II.

 THE PLAN—Gathering Thought; Arranging; Committing; Practical
   Suggestions; Use of Notes                                          80

                              CHAPTER III.

 PRELIMINARIES FOR PREACHING—Fear; Vigor; Opening Exercises;
   Requisites for a Successful Discourse                              96

                               CHAPTER IV.

 THE DIVISIONS—Introduction, Difficulties in Opening; Discussion,
   Simplicity and Directness; Conclusion                             104

                               CHAPTER V.

 AFTER CONSIDERATIONS—Success; Rest; Improvement; Practical
   Suggestions                                                       115

                     =PART III.=—_SECULAR ORATORY._

                               CHAPTER I.

 INSTRUCTIVE ADDRESS—Fields of Oratory; Oral Teaching; Lecturing     123

                               CHAPTER II.

 MISCELLANEOUS ADDRESS—Deliberative; Legal; Popular; Controversial;
   the Statesman; the Lawyer; the Lecturer; the Orator               127

                               =PART IV.=

 EMINENT SPEAKERS DESCRIBED—St. Augustine; Luther; Lord Chatham;
   William Pitt; Edmund Burke; Mirabeau; Patrick Henry; George
   Whitefield; John Wesley; Sidney Smith; F. W. Robertson; Henry
   Clay; Henry B. Bascom; John Summerfield; C. H. Spurgeon; Henry
   Ward Beecher; Anna E. Dickinson; John A. Bingham; William E.
   Gladstone; Matthew Simpson; Wendell Phillips; John P. Durbin;
   Newman Hall, and others                                           133


 THE CHAIRMAN’S GUIDE—How to Organize and Conduct Public Meetings
   and Debating Clubs in Parliamentary style                         199


                          INTRODUCTORY LETTER.

 REV. WM. PITTENGER:                       CADIZ, O., _19th Nov., 1867_.

DEAR SIR,—I thank you for calling my attention to your forthcoming work
on Extemporaneous Speaking. Unwritten speech is, in my judgment, the
more efficient method of public speaking, because it is the natural
method. The written essay, says an eminent critic of antiquity, “is not
a speech, unless you choose to call epistles speeches.” A cultivated
man, fully possessed of all the facts which relate to the subject of
which he would speak, who cannot clearly express himself without first
memorizing word for word his written preparation, can scarcely be called
a public speaker, whatever may be his capacity as a writer or reader.
The speaker who clothes his thoughts at the moment of utterance, and in
the presence of his hearers, will illustrate by his speech the admirable
saying of Seneca: “Fit words better than fine ones.”

It is not my purpose to enter upon any inquiry touching the gifts,
culture and practice necessary to make a powerful and successful
speaker. It is conceded that in the art of public speaking, as in all
other arts, there is no excellence without great labor. Neither is it
the intent of the writer to suggest the possibility of speaking
efficiently without the careful culture of voice and manner, of
intellect and heart, an exact knowledge of the subject, and a careful
arrangement, with or without writing, of all the facts and statements
involved in the discussion. Lord Brougham has said that a speech written
before delivery is regarded as something almost ridiculous; may we not
add, that a speech made without previous reflection or an accurate
knowledge of the subject, would be regarded as a mere tinkling cymbal. I
intend no depreciation of the elaborate written essay read for the
instruction or amusement of an assembly; but claim that the essay, read,
or recited from memory, is not speech, nor can it supply the place of
natural effective speech. The essay delivered is but the echo of the
dead past, the speech is the utterance of the living present. The
delivery of the essay is the formal act of memory, the delivery of the
unwritten speech the living act of intellect and heart. The difference
between the two is known and felt of all men. To all this it may be
answered that the ancient speakers, whose fame still survives, carefully
elaborated their speeches before delivery. The fact is admitted with the
further statement, that many of the speeches of the ancient orators
never were delivered at all. Five of the seven orations of Cicero
against Verres were never spoken, neither was the second Philippic
against Mark Antony, nor the reported defence of Milo. We admit that the
ancient speakers wrote much and practised much, and we would commend
their example, in all, save a formal recital of written preparations.
There is nothing in all that has come to us concerning ancient oratory,
which by any means proves that to be effective in speech, what is to be
said should be first written and memorized; there is much that shows,
that to enable one to express his own thoughts clearly and forcibly,
reflection, culture and practice are essential.

Lord Brougham, remarking on the habit of writing speeches, says: “That a
speech written before delivery is something anomalous, and a speech
intended to have been spoken is a kind of byword for something laughable
in itself, as describing an incongruous existence.” This distinguished
man, in his careful consideration of this subject, says: “We can hardly
assign any limits to the effects of great practise in giving a power of
extempore composition,” and notices that it is recorded of Demosthenes,
that when, upon some rare occasions, he trusted to the feeling of the
hour, and spoke off-hand, “his eloquence was more spirited and bold, and
he seemed sometimes to speak from a supernatural impulse.” If this be
true of the great Athenian who notoriously would not, if he could avoid
it, trust to the inspiration of the moment, and who for want of a
prepared speech, we are told by Æschines, failed before Philip,—might it
not be inferred that one practised in speaking, would utter his thoughts
with more spirit and power when not restrained by a written preparation
and fettered by its formal recital?

Did not Fox often, in the Parliament, achieve the highest results of
speech without previous written preparation; and is it not a fact never
to be questioned, that the wonderful speech of Webster, in reply to
Hayne, was unwritten?

In his admirable lecture on Eloquence, Mr. Emerson says: “Eloquence that
so astonishes, is only the exaggeration of a talent that is universal.
All men are competitors in this art. * * A man of this talent finds
himself cold in private company, and proves himself a heavy companion;
but give him a commanding occasion, and the inspiration of a great
multitude, and he surprises us by new and unlooked for powers.” * *

Indeed, there is in this lecture of Mr. Emerson, in few words, much to
sustain your theory. He says, “the word eloquence strictly means
out-speaking; the main power, sentiment—the essential fact is heat, the
heat which comes of sincerity. Speak what you know and believe, and are
personally answerable for. This goes by weight and measure, like
everything else in the universe. A man to be eloquent must have faith in
his subject, and must have accurate knowledge of that subject. * * The
author of power—he is the great man who always makes a divine
impression, a sentiment more powerful in the heart than love of country,
and gives perceptions and feelings far beyond the limits of thought.
Eloquence is the power to translate a truth into a language perfectly
intelligible to the person to whom you speak. Such a practical
conversion of truth, written in God’s language, is one of the most
beautiful weapons forged in the shop of the Divine Artificer. God and
Nature are altogether sincere, and art should be as sincere.” How can
sincerity be fully attained in the great art of public speech, if every
word to be uttered must be previously written down in the closet, and
memorized and recited? Was not Lord Brougham right in saying a speech
written before delivery is inconsistent with the inspiration of the
moment, and the feelings under which the orator is always supposed to
speak? What feelings? The felt-conviction of the truth of what he has to
say. What inspiration? The inspiration which, at the moment, clothes and
expresses the honest thought in appropriate words.

Surely the living voice, rightly cultivated, and rightly employed, is a
power in the world, and to condemn you for calling attention to what you
believe to the most efficient method of human speech, would be one of
those decisions of ignorant arrogance which it costs no labor and needs
no intellect to pronounce.

Is not the man who well and truthfully speaks his own thoughts, as
Shakspeare and Bacon wrote, in some sense their peer? Is not the mere
reciter of their words, but their shadow?

It is said of Plato, that he poured forth the flood of his eloquence as
by inspiration, and that, had the Father of the gods spoken in Greek, he
would have used none other language than Plato’s; and yet this master of
language takes pains, in reporting the apology of Socrates on trial for
his life, to represent him as saying that it would not become him to
speak “studied terms and expressions, but only the truth expressed in
the plainest language.” I quote the words of Socrates as given by Plato:

“Among the false statements which my accusers made, there was one at
which I especially marveled, namely when they warned you to take care
not to be led astray by me, inasmuch as I was a powerful speaker. It did
appear to me supremely audacious in them to make such an assertion,
Which must immediately afterwards be disproved by the fact; for you will
see that I have no skill in speaking, unless they call a man a powerful
speaker because he says what is true. If they mean this, I certainly
must allow that I am a speaker of a very different kind from them; for
they, as I have said, have not spoken a word of truth; from me you shall
hear the whole truth; and that not clothed in ornate sentences with
studied terms and expressions; you will have from me plain facts
expressed in the plainest language. Indeed, Athenians, it would ill
become me at my age to come before you with a studied discourse like a
boy. And there is one thing, O Athenians, which I must beg and entreat
of you: if I use, in my defense, the same terms which I have been
accustomed to use in the market-place and in the shops where most of you
have heard me talking, do not wonder at that, nor take offence. For this
is the fact, I now enter a court of justice for the first time, though I
am more than seventy years old; I am, therefore, altogether strange to
the kind of language used here; and therefore excuse me, as if I really
were a stranger, if I speak to you in that tone and in that manner in
which I have been brought up. I ask you a thing which is, I think,
reasonable, that you take no account of the manner of my address to
you—it might be better, it might be worse, perhaps—but to consider this,
to attend to this, whether I say what is right or not, for that is the
virtue of the judge, as to speak truly is the virtue of the advocate.”

No matter if the speech be not clothed in ornate sentences with studied
terms, it is the virtue of the judge to consider whether the speech is
right, as to speak truly is the virtue of the advocate.

It is only, it seems to me, when men speak wisely, truly and naturally,
that the full significance of Quintillian’s words can be realized: “May
I perish, if the all-powerful Creator of nature and the Architect of
this world has impressed man with any character which so eminently
distinguishes him as the faculty of speech.” Let him who would use this
faculty effectively, and attain to that great power which rules the
minds of men, and moves the passions and affections of the soul, see to
it, that he speaks what he knows and believes, plainly and directly from
the heart to the heart.

                                              Very truly your friend,
                                                        JOHN A. BINGHAM.

                                PART I.
                          GENERAL PREPARATION.

                               CHAPTER I.

The special object of the following pages is to show the manner and
requirements of extempore preaching. But as this differs from other
methods of speech in its objects rather than in its external qualities,
many of the thoughts we present will apply as well to the bar and forum
as to the sacred desk.

There is need that this subject should be enforced, particularly on the
ministry. A growing desire is manifested to give up plain, direct
speech, and indulge in the ease and certainty of written sermons. Young
men find themselves in places where it requires unwearied exertion to
sustain their reputation, and satisfy the demands of a cultivated
audience. They begin to fear that their spoken sermons may be deficient
in polish and style, and at last they write. The people nearly always
protest against the innovation, but to no purpose, for having convinced
himself that he is right, the minister treats their murmurs as the
effect of vulgar prejudice, and as a frequent result, his usefulness is
permanently impaired.

This evil cannot be diminished by denouncing those who engage in it, for
the supposed necessity they labor under is stronger than any other
consideration. But it may be lessened by showing that there is a better
way, and making it plain. Such will be our endeavor.

The two extremes of speech are, the discourse which is written and read
verbatim, and that in which both words and thoughts are left to the
impulse of the moment. Between these there are many intermediate grades.
The latter may be excluded from the classification altogether, for no
wise man will adopt it except in some unforeseen emergency. True
extemporization relates to the words alone, and leaves full room for the
complete preparation of thought. Between this and the manuscript
discourse there are various compromises which seek to combine the
advantages of both. These, for the sake of convenience, may be called
the recited, composite, premeditated and sketched discourses.

It is useless to deny that the method of writing in full and reading,
possesses many and great advantages. It secures time for the
consideration of every thought. If the mind fags, the writer can pause
until it is rested and begin again; and in this way all the ideas and
expressions that occur for several days can be concentrated into one
sermon. Then it can be revised, and the language improved to an
indefinite extent, and the sermon, in its completeness, laid away for
future use.

But there are great disadvantages. Such a sermon may, by solidity of
thought, and brilliancy of expression, command approval, but it will
seldom move and sway the people. The very idea that all has been written
out, and is merely read, will tend powerfully to neutralize its effects.
We may remonstrate against this if we will, and declare that our sermons
should be judged by their substance, but this does not abate the
preference of our auditors. They will retort, with truth, that they can
read even better sermons at home, and dwell on them at their leisure.
What they want in preaching is the living sympathy and guidance of the
preacher; his soul burning and glowing, and thus lighting up other
souls; his eye beaming on theirs; his clear, far-seeing mind, excited by
the magnetism of truth, and appealing to their hearts with an
earnestness that will take no denial. This fills the popular ideal of
preaching, and no elaboration, no word music will atone for the want of
it. Men of great genius may succeed otherwise, but the mass of speakers

The plan of memorizing and reciting sermons would seem, upon a
superficial view, to secure the advantages of reading without its
defects. But another and formidable class of disadvantages come into
being. Very few men can declaim well. For one who can speak from memory
with ease and naturalness, twenty can pour forth their ideas in the
words of the moment with energy and effect. A few have mastered the
difficult art, and won enduring laurels in this way, but their number is
too small to encourage others to imitation.

This practice also imposes a heavy burden on the mind. To write and
commit two or three sermons in a week, is a task that only those who are
strong in mental and physical health can perform with impunity, and even
then it requires too much time; for no matter how perfect a minister’s
sermons may be, unless he fulfills other duties, he cannot be wholly
successful. Most preachers who memorize, inevitably neglect pastoral
work because they have not time for it. And another effect follows that
is, if possible, still worse. Instead of growing daily in knowledge by
diligent study, the mind is kept on the tread-wheel task of writing and
committing sermons, and thus permanently dwarfed. A young man may take a
higher rank at first by memorizing, than otherwise, but he will not
retain it long, for the knowledge others accumulate while he is conning
his discourses, will soon place them above him.

The practice of committing brilliant passages to be recited with the
eyes withdrawn from the paper, or thrown into the current of
unpremeditated discourse, we have termed the composite manner. It is
open to all the objections urged against the last method, and a most
formidable one in addition—the difficulty of making these sudden flashes
fit into their proper places, and of preventing them from destroying the
unity of the whole discourse. They differ so widely from the rest of the
composition, that the audience are apt to see the artifice and despise
it. A skillful man may join them properly, but even then his own
attention, and that of the audience will, probably, be so closely fixed
upon them that the main design of the sermon will pass out of sight.

These three varieties are much alike, and may be called branches of the
word-preparation method. In them, words are carefully chosen, and form
the groundwork of discourse. The next three are based on thought.

The premeditated discourse comes nearest to the word method. It was the
medium of the wonderful eloquence of the late Bishop Bascom. In it the
ideas are first arranged, and then each thought pondered until it
resolves itself into words, which are mostly recalled in the moment of
speech. Men who speak thus usually have great command of language and
much fixity of impression. Those who receive ideas readily, and lose
them again as easily, could not adopt this method, for words previously
arranged could not be recalled in the same order, unless they had been
fixed by the pen. There is little objection to this mode of preparation
in the case of those who are adapted to it, provided they do not carry
it so far as to feel burdened or confused. No words should be left in
charge of the memory, and no conscious effort made to recall particular

Stevens, in his admirable book called “Preaching Required by the Times,”
advises ministers, when revolving and arranging their ideas, not to let
them run into words. We can see no ill effect in this, provided the
result is a natural one. All the words must be retained easily in the
memory, and not sought for if they do not spontaneously present
themselves in the act of speech. President Lincoln, who was a most
effective off-hand speaker, said, that he owed his skill in this art to
the early practice of reducing every thought he entertained to the
plainest and simplest words. Then when he desired to enunciate an idea
he had no difficulty in giving it a form that even a child could

The sketched discourse approaches very closely to the purely extempore
method, and only differs from it in writing the whole matter in full,
with no care for style, simply to practice in the art of expression, and
to test our mastery of the plan arranged. In it there is no intention of
memorizing, or of using the same words again, except so far as the ideas
in their simplest form may suggest them. This is only doing on paper
what, in the last method, was done mentally. It may be of great
advantage to those who have had but a limited experience, and cannot so
clearly grasp their ideas in the domain of pure thought as to be sure
that they are fully adapted to the purposes of their sermons.

But at the slow rate of writing in the common hand, this requires too
much time. If a person have mastered Phonography, or Tachygraphy, a
valuable improvement of the former, more easily acquired and retained in
practice, he may write a sermon in little more than the time it will
take to preach it, if he only work at full speed and do not stay for the
niceties of style. Then the defects in the arrangement or material, that
before escaped his attention, will be brought to light. We can judge a
sermon more impartially when it is placed outside of the mind, than if
it were only mentally reviewed, and we still have time to correct
whatever may be amiss.

But the great method of which the two former are mere branches, and
which in fact underlies every other, is that of pure extemporization. In
this there is a firm, compact road of previously prepared thought
leading directly to the object aimed at. When thus speaking, we always
feel on solid ground, and each moment have the proper, selected idea,
seeking expression, and clothing itself in the needed words. All men
talk thus, and we cannot but regard it as the highest form of oratory.
When we have obtained complete mastery of expression, and the ability to
so arrange facts and ideas, that at the fitting moment they will resolve
themselves into words, the high problem of eloquence is in a great
measure solved.

                              CHAPTER II.

Almost every speaker has at some time longed to obtain the golden power
of eloquence. It always insures to its fortunate possessor a strong
influence in the affairs of men. It is needed in the promotion of every
reform, and is the only means by which the minds of a community can be
at once moved in a new direction. When employed in the service of error
and injustice it is like a fallen archangel’s power for evil. But its
highest and purest sphere is in the promulgation of revealed truth. It
there brings the word of God into living contact with the souls of men,
and by it molds them into a higher life. It is sublime to be a co-worker
with God, and thus assist him in peopling heaven.

Only the method of eloquence can be taught. Its refined and ethereal
substance lies beyond the reach of all art. No preacher can be truly
eloquent without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and even the excited
passion and burning enthusiasm which are the human sources of this
quality, can be acquired by no formularies. But they may be developed
and properly directed where a capability for them exists. In this
respect there is the widest difference of talent. Some men never can
attain the wondrous power of swaying their fellow-beings. Others are
born orators. The latter class is small, and it is never safe to
conclude that we belong to it until the fact has been incontestably
proved. Neither is the class of incapables very large. The great mass of
men lie between the extremes. Their talents do not make them great in
spite of themselves; but if they make the proper effort, and are favored
by circumstances, they may become effective, and even eloquent speakers.
To these it is of great importance to have the right road pointed out,
along which they may travel, and by earnest toil gain the desired end.
There is no “royal road” to eloquence, but here, as elsewhere,
application and study will produce their proper effects. Yet certain
prerequisites must be received from God himself, without which all
cultivation will be vain as the attempt to fertilize the sands of the

The first quality to which we will refer, is intellectual competency. By
this, we mean a strength of intellect that can grasp an idea, and form a
complete image of it; one who is not able to think out a subject in its
leading features, cannot speak on it, and if the deficiency be general,
he is unfitted to speak in public at all. We would not assert that none
but men of commanding intelligence can profitably address their
fellow-beings. It is not even necessary that the orator should be above
the average of mental power possessed by his audience. Franklin was
entranced by the preaching of Whitefield, though in grasp and compass of
mind almost infinitely his superior. A man of comparative dullness may,
by brooding over a particular subject, so master it, that the greatest
intellect will listen to him with reverence and profit. The great German
poet, Goethe, said that he met few men from whom he did not learn
something valuable. But no man ought to address the people unless he can
clearly comprehend the nature of his subject, mark out its limitations,
understand its relations to other subjects, and so arrange and simplify
it as to convey these ideas to his hearers. The Christian minister has
to deal with a great variety of topics, and requires mind enough to
grasp not one only, but many subjects.

It is hard to determine just how much mental power is required to secure
a moderate degree of success as an orator. No precise rules can be given
on this point, and if they could, egotism would prevent each from
applying them to himself however correctly he might gauge his neighbor.
The presumptuous would do well to remember that oratory is the highest
of all arts, and to measure themselves with becoming humility; perhaps
the following questions may aid in self-examination. Can you grasp an
idea firmly? can you follow its ramifications, perceive its shades of
meaning, and render it familiar in all its bearings? Can you analyze it
clearly, so that each separate part will be understood by itself, and
then again link these together and make each serve as a stepping-stone
to the comprehension of that which follows? If you can do this with a
single subject, you have the mental power to speak on that subject; if
on all, or many of the subjects of the Christian religion, vast and
varied as they are, you can preach. No deficiency of intellectual power
or originality need dishearten you.

The fact of the close and mutual influence of body and mind is beyond
dispute, although their connection is a subject of deep mystery. When we
see how much the faculties of reason and imagination—nay, even of hope,
love, and faith—are affected by bodily conditions, we can only exclaim
with the Psalmist, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Especially is
this mutual dependence forced upon the attention of the extempore
speaker. In every effort he feels the subtle effect of physical causes,
and often under the pressure of disease, strives in vain to realize the
grand but intangible thoughts that float through his brain. The body is
the instrument of the mind in its communication with the outward world,
and even if the most sublime and glorious conceptions existed within,
they would be powerless if the bodily organs were unequal to the task of
expressing them.

A dumb man cannot be an orator, no matter how richly endowed; and all
other bodily defects will be felt as hindrances even if they fall short
of the deprivation of an organ of sense. The preacher needs to be a
completely developed man physically, as well as mentally, though he may
succeed in spite of many disadvantages. Feeble health will always
detract from his power. The mind may for a time rise superior to it, but
a crushing recoil will follow. This takes place when the ill-health is
not extreme; but when it fetters the ability of expression, and prevents
the manifestation of living power, the barrier is absolute. Many
ministers utterly fail, because they forget that eloquence is the
offspring of health; others, perhaps, still more unfortunate have
battled against disease and bodily infirmity for years, and yet have
been doomed to feel, amid their brightest aspirations, that a power
beyond their control was conquering them. It is terrible to sit
helpless, and see a cloud stealing over the brightness of genius, and
shading the whole future of life. Yet this has been the experience of
thousands. We remember an impressive illustration of this in the case of
one who possessed the richest endowments. He was almost unequaled as a
pulpit orator, yet, in the middle of life, saw his powers of usefulness
withdrawn, and his fame fading—only because his body could not bear the
strain he unwisely put upon it.

In view of the many facts of this kind, it would be well for the man who
aspires to eminence in the fields of eloquence, to examine himself, and
see if he have the needed physical strength. With some the incapacity is
no doubt total. How many ministers have had their light turned into
darkness by a diseased throat, a cerebral affection, or a nervous
disorder? But the majority of men only need care and obedience to the
laws of life to bring their bodies up to the standard of efficiency. In
youth, at least, there is nothing so easily improved as health. By the
golden rule of temperance in all things—in voice and thought, as well as
food and drink—nearly all may render the body adequate to the
manifestation of mind.

To an orator, the power of readily clothing his thoughts in words is
indispensable. Language is the dress of ideas—the means by which they
are communicated to others. The thoughts that arise in our minds resolve
themselves into words as naturally as the clouds do into falling
showers. We use words to some degree in our most secret meditations, and
whenever the latter become clear and well defined they fall into
language without conscious effort. To cause them to do this with
precision and certainty is one of the problems of extempore speech. The
thought is prepared in advance, but is to be coined into words at the
moment. If the faculty of language is weak this cannot be done without
such hesitation and embarrassment as greatly to diminish the effect; but
if strong, a tide of words will be poured forth without apparent effort.
Even in common conversation, a wide difference in point of fluency may
be observed. In fact, it was this which gave Gall the first hint that
led to the establishment of Phrenology.

No doubt this faculty may be greatly cultivated and improved, but when
its original strength is very small, it can not, probably, be made
available for ready and powerful speech. There are persons whose voices
seem to have no defect, who cannot learn to sing; others, with eyes
perfectly organized, are unable to distinguish between colors. The power
of language may be equally deficient in an otherwise well-constituted
mind. We once knew a man who could not find the words necessary to make
the most common statement without long and embarrassed pauses. He forgot
the names of his nearest neighbors; and, when telling a story, required
perpetual prompting wherever names occurred, and would often hesitate
until some every-day term was suggested to him. No cultivation would
have made him a speaker. He had as much education as his neighbors
around, and was not remarkably dull. He was simply an almost wordless
man. Many persons suffer in the same manner, though but few to the same

But the mere fact that a man is slow of speech is no bar even to the
highest eminence as an orator. The proper test of the power of this
faculty is in common conversation. There one feels perfectly at ease,
and deals with matters he understands. If he have but a moderate share
of fluency, he will have no difficulty in conveying his ideas. But if he
does experience such difficulty, it shows a radical defect which art can
never remove. But we should not be discouraged if it is hard to find
appropriate words when speaking on unfamiliar subjects, for we cannot
have words to express ideas before possessing the ideas themselves!

Those who are deficient in language, but have strong powers of thought,
are almost the only persons who really find relief in writing and
reading their sermons. If they have time to wait, the right word may
come to them, or they can search through dictionaries for it; but in the
hurry of speech there is no such leisure for selection. They have some
excuse for writing, though it will still be questionable whether it
would not be better for them to dash ahead with the loss of some
precision, or if this cannot be done, abandon altogether a profession
for which they are so obviously unfitted.

A man must have a degree of courage to place himself within reach of any
danger, and remain there. If he be destitute of it, he will resign the
hope of victory rather than encounter the perils by which it may be won.
It is needed in extempore speaking as well as in any species of physical
danger, for the perils to be encountered are not less terrible. To some
sensitive minds these even amount to a species of martyrdom. They go to
the desk trembling in every limb, and would feel wonderfully relieved if
they could exchange their position for the tented field, where the
warfare would be of the body only, and not of the spirit. Some of the
greatest orators have never been able to entirely overcome this feeling,
although they may have been free from the fear of failure.

But it is difficult to be perfectly assured even against failure. “There
is nothing so fitful as eloquence,” says the Abbe Bautain, who was well
qualified to judge. The practiced and prepared orator does not often
dread losing command of words altogether, and being obliged to close
before the proper time, but fears that his rich and glowing conceptions
may fade, and his high ideal be unattained.

Mere boldness does not suffice to protect a speaker from these dangers.
Of what avail is a man’s courage if his brain be clouded and his tongue
paralyzed? He cannot brave the consequences, for the power of ridicule
is too keen for any armor—at least when it comes in such a concentrated
volume as falls on the head of the unfortunate speaker who can not
finish what he has begun. At such a time the boaster’s fate is worst of
all; for, while others are pitied, he is crushed beneath the scorn and
triumph of his audience. There is no positive guard against failure.
Public speaking is a modern battle, in which the most skillful warrior
may be stricken down by a random bullet—the bravest slain by a coward!

What then is the benefit of courage? We have placed it in the list of
essential qualities, and believe the orator cannot succeed without it.
It does not operate by rendering failure impossible, or even materially
reducing the risk, but by enabling us to endure all danger and press on.
Bonaparte said that most generals failed in one point—they delayed to
attack when it became necessary to fight a great battle. The issue was
so uncertain—so far beyond the reach of human wisdom—that they hesitated
and deliberated until the favorable moment had passed forever. In war
this timid policy courts destruction, by permitting the adversary to
choose his own time to strike. The same principle governs in other
affairs. The risk must be taken. A man of courage derives new lessons
from his failures, and makes them the introduction to future triumphs.
Especially in the field of oratory is there no possibility of success,
if this indomitable, persevering spirit be wanting. Many persons of
excellent talents have been condemned to perpetual silence, because they
would not endure the perils of speech. Men who have instructed the world
by their pens, and in the privacy of the social circle have charmed
their friends by the magic of their conversation, have never spoken in
public because they shrunk from the inevitable hazard. There is no
difficulty in determining whether we possess this quality or not. Let
the trial be made, and if we do not abandon our posts and incur disgrace
rather than speak, we have all the boldness that is needed.

The quality of firmness in oratory is sometimes undervalued. While
steady, persevering industry, working toward a definite end, is known to
be essential in everything else, in this field genius is often supposed
to be sufficient. There never was a greater mistake. Nature does lay the
foundation broad and deep for some men, but they must build diligently
upon it to make their gifts availing. The way to eminence, even for the
favored few, is long and hard, requiring deep thought and earnest
striving, and without a strong purpose fixed in the very beginning, and
firmly adhered to through years of labor, there is slight chance of
success. A few persons have risen to eminence without appearing to pay
the price for it, but such exceptions are more apparent than real. There
are times of great excitement, when some one before unknown is able to
speak so as to fix the eyes of the nation upon himself, but unless he
has been previously prepared, and continues to put forth resolute
effort, his success is but transitory.

The career of Patrick Henry is adduced as an instance of success without
labor. He had little education in the schools, but learned much from
Nature herself. His observation was tireless. It is said, that when he
kept a country store, he would sit and question his customers by the
hour, causing them to display their various dispositions. He was thus
learning to play upon the human heart, and as this was only one
manifestation of a ruling passion, it doubtless took a hundred other
forms. When on those long hunting excursions in the beautiful valley of
Virginia, how many deep and ineffaceable impressions must have been made
on his mind. He had a peerless genius, yet all we can learn of him leads
us to believe that he cultivated it to the utmost, at least as applied
to oratory.

The familiar examples of Demosthenes and Cicero are not solitary ones.
All who have acquired the power of effective speech have toiled long and
patiently. The poor, weak waverer can never be an orator in the highest
sense of the term, however he may, on special occasions, flash into
momentary brilliancy. And as the minister of the Gospel must cultivate
the most difficult field of eloquence, we advise no one to attempt
preaching who is not conscious of a strong, unchangeable purpose—a
purpose that will bear delay, discouragement and weary waiting.

Of course, the nature of all the results obtained through our firmness
will depend on the direction of our efforts. If personal ambition, or
pecuniary profit be the object toward which we bend our energies, the
grand and holy character of the Christian ministry will be lost sight
of. But let our aim be unselfish, and our success will be pure and

To him who has a mind to conceive, a body with strength to execute,
language to coin the mass of thoughts into words, courage to bear the
scrutiny of a thousand eyes, and firmness that will endure the toil of
preparation—to him the upward pathway is clear. He may not win great
fame, but he will be able to present the truth in its native beauty, and
make his words fall with weight and power on the hearts of men.

                              CHAPTER III.

Thought and emotion are two prime elements in the manifestations of
mind. All the products of mental action, unless it be the mysterious
power of will, are divided between them, and by them, through various
means of expression, we reach and influence the outward world.

Thought springs from the intellect, and acts upon the facts received
from every source, retaining, arranging and modifying them at will.
Feeling is the mind’s response to all these, and comprises fear, love,
hope, faith, hatred and all the sentiments and emotions that are
described under the general name of “the heart.” Speech is founded on
these two elements, which meet and mingle in every human production,
though seldom in the same proportion. The speaker who has greatest
mastery of one, is often most deficient in the other. But if so, the
whole range of eloquence is not open to him. He is only a half-developed
orator, and his usefulness will be very much narrowed.

A man of deep thought but sluggish emotion, may enchain the attention of
an assembly by the novel and far-reaching views he presents and the
ability with which he unfolds them, but the whole discourse will be dull
and lifeless. He will find it very difficult to move his hearers to
action. They may assent to every word he utters, and yet continue in
their own course. Every minister’s experience furnishes proof that it is
not enough to convince, or it would be very easy to convert the world.
At times it is right to use the sword of intellect alone. In
controversy, for example, a solid basis of reasoning must be laid before
anything else can be done. But it is not always enough. Men are led as
often by their sentiments and intuitions as by their judgments, and we
are allowed to use all lawful means to win them. Even the pure light of
truth is not always to be discovered through the intellect alone. A mere
feeling of what is right, or just, or true, often leads, in an instant,
to a conviction that all subsequent reasoning can only strengthen. The
ideal orator, therefore, is one who, even in argument, can show the
truth, and then, by a flash of heavenly sympathy, change our cold assent
into fervent conviction.

On the other hand, a man of predominant feeling may make us weep, but as
we see no reason for it, we resist the emotion to the extent of our
power. If we yield, a reaction follows, and we go away ashamed of what
we cannot justify. Of this class were some of the early Methodist
preachers—the weeping prophets, as they were termed. Their tears, and
the feeling with which they spoke, were often irresistible, and by the
mere force of sympathy, men who had very little intellectual power were
able to sway the passions of an audience at will. But had it not been
for some of their brethren, who were men of thought as well as
emotion—men who had clear heads to organize and combine, as well as
tears to shed, the effect of their labor would have been evanescent as
the emotions they excited.

Continuity is a highly important quality of thought. All men think; they
cannot help it, for the mind is ever active. But with most these
thoughts are but random flashes—illuminated pictures—that arise for a
moment, and then vanish to give place to others. Powerful thinking
consists in holding these scattered images together in a chain, and
making them run uninterruptedly from one point to another. There is no
man who does not at times catch glimpses of far-reaching, profound
thoughts; but before he can combine them into harmony and place them in
their proper relation to other thoughts, they disappear, and he may
search long before he will find them again. All persons see the beauties
of natural scenery, but it is only the poet who can reproduce the
scattered elements and combine them into a harmonious description. Only
the true thinker can gather the fragments of thought that flash through
the mind, and give them form and consistency. This power is
indispensable to the speaker. He must give, not a mere gallery of
pictures, however beautiful they may be, but a succession of thoughts,
naturally connected, by which the mind advances step by step through the
discourse, without jar or interruption. We will endeavor to give some
directions for the acquisition of this power, as far as may be necessary
in extempore speaking. The capability of thought must indeed be
possessed or all cultivation will be vain; but if the mind have any
native vigor, it can learn to think consecutively and methodically, even
as the unskilled but perfectly organized hand may be taught to carve
beautiful and complicated forms.

As a general rule, men can be more easily moved by appeals made to their
feelings than to their reason, and find the most masterly dissertation
cold and lifeless unless relieved by some touches of humanity and
passion. A man who does not possess true feeling cannot so counterfeit
it as to reach the hearts of others, but he may, in a great measure,
transform his own nature and acquire it. The most essential
qualification for a religious teacher is a deep personal religious
experience. One who has never passed through the mystic, mingled sorrow
and joy of penitence and the agony of remorse—has never watched with
straining eyes for the dawning light of salvation, and at last been
enabled to say, “Abba, Father!” such a one cannot preach the gospel with
power and success. His speech may glitter with all the flowers of
rhetoric and the form of words be complete, but the vast power of the
earnest soul sympathizing with all the lips utter, will be absent.
Without genuine experience, our preaching will be apt to fall into that
loose generalization which can do no good. For it is only when we plant
our feet on living realities—those we have tested and know to be sure,
and deal in particular, specified facts, that we are able to pierce
through all the folds of ignorance and self-love, and awaken an echo of
the conscience within.

As a mere form of knowledge, the experience of God’s dealings with the
awakened soul is more valuable than any other lore. But its great
advantage to the preacher is not the increase of knowledge. It produces
a tide of emotion that can never sleep until the judgment day. It
connects the Cross and the divine Sufferer with cords of living sympathy
that always thrill to the very centre of our being. Conversion
invariably deepens and intensifies the emotions of our nature; and if
the speaker has passed through a strongly marked change he will have the
power of imparting his impressions to others, and of giving to his
descriptions the inimitable charm of reality. If his religious
experience accords with the Bible, he can speak from his own heart with
almost irresistible force. This was the secret of the power wielded by
Luther, Wesley, Whitefield and others who have shaken the world. Thus
prepared, John Bunyan wrote the most wonderful book of any age—recorded
the world’s experience in religion, and made the cold, dead realms of
allegory flash with life. He laid the spell of his genius on all alike,
and the child prattles of the burdened pilgrim with the giants in his
way, while the old man is cheered by the light that streams down from
the high hill on which the city is built. The reason of his power is
simply that he wrote his own spiritual experience in the language of
truth. He had stood at the bar of Vanity Fair, had fought with the
fiends, and groped his way through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
From the depths of his own heart, torn by internal conflict, or healed
and made happy by a heavenly anointing, he drew the images that glow
with all the color of life in his marvelous book.

Love is the mightiest of all forces, and Jesus was revealed to draw unto
himself the love of the universe. Let the minister learn of him, and he
will be able to speak as he never spoke before. He will strike the
key-note of that song whose solemn music has rolled down through the
centuries, and will wax louder and clearer until time shall be no more.

The story of the Cross, with all that depends upon it, forms principal
part of the Christian orator’s theme. But he has other duties. His work
is broad as human life. He stands by the bed of sickness; he weeps with
the mourners when the last flutter of life is stilled, and strives to
lift their eyes to the victor over death; he warns the impenitent of
coming woe. It is his to deal with the highest and holiest emotions of
the heart. And how can he touch these delicate chords gently, but
firmly—not shrinking from the infliction of necessary pain, yet never
causing a tear to flow “in the mere wantonness of grief”—unless he has
passed through sorrow’s deep waters? He must have unfeigned sympathy for
all, and be able to express it plainly and tenderly.

This power, both of feeling and expression, may be greatly increased by
exercise. If the preacher will enter the abodes of rich and poor alike,
and take a friendly interest in their hopes and fears, their joys and
sorrows, he will find his heart drawn out toward them, and when he
addresses them in public, it will be with far more intense anxiety for
their good than if they were strangers. It will be comparatively easy
for him to throw his heart into all he says.

There are two methods of cultivating genuine emotion that we would
cordially recommend to all desirous of swaying the hearts of the people.
The first is prayer. We need not enlarge on its general benefits, but
will notice its effect on sacred oratory. The man who often addresses
God in prayer is in the very best school of eloquence. It brings us
close to Him, and in the awful light of His purity, we more clearly see
anything that is bad in our hearts and strive to cast it out. As we pray
for others, and spread their needs before him, we cannot fail to be
inspired with a stronger desire for their welfare. Then, too, religion
becomes something more than a mere form of words, and our hearts burn
with a stronger flame. We speak now of prayer as it should be—a warm,
pure, fervent outpouring of the heart to God. This is more difficult in
the public congregation, for then many disturbing elements are brought
to bear on the person praying. The listening people are apt to be in the
preacher’s thoughts, and prevent him from enjoying simple and direct
communion with heaven. It is the prayer “when none but God is nigh,”
that will stir his heart to its profoundest depths and put his mind in
the right frame for delivering his sermons. Let any one pray earnestly
for help from above all the time his sermons are in course of
preparation, and he will be surprised to find how much of the coldness
and deadness supposed to belong to this species of composition will be
swept away, and how beautifully over all will be spread the vivid charm
of real experience. Yet we must not restrict our prayers to this time,
for God may not meet us in loving friendship if we only approach him
when we have a favor to ask. To reap the full benefit of prayer, it
should be a habit woven into our life, and continued on every occasion.
This will rebuke sinful ambition and moderate that sensitiveness which
has reference to the opinions of our fellow-beings. Thus armed, the
preacher will come as the messenger of God, rather than the caterer to
men’s fancies. And from the mere operation of natural causes, he will
speak with a boldness and earnestness that will draw the hearts of men
as the magnet does the steel.

But prayer is far more than the means of cultivating emotion. There is a
direct influence that comes from God to man. The power of the Holy
Spirit is no fable. A heavenly anointing is sent down—an unction that
gives sweetness and power even to the most commonplace words. It is not
bestowed unasked, for God desires that we should feel the need of His
high gifts before they are granted. But when humbly implored, there is
often breathed an influence from above, mighty to sustain the faithful
minister in his task. What an encouraging but awful thought! God himself
stands by us in the time of our weakness and gives us His strength. If
the minister would always go to the pulpit with this assurance, he would
not fear the mass of upturned faces, but calmly view them with a heart
stayed on the Master whose work he has to do.

The Spirit’s presence will not in the least absolve us from the need of
complete preparation. In nothing is it more true that God helps those
who help themselves. All that we contend for is such an influence as
will cause the words uttered to penetrate the souls of those for whom
they were spoken, remove the fear of man from the preacher’s heart, and
make him bold in speaking the truth. It may be that clearer knowledge
will be given, and the most fitting selection of words suggested, but
this can only be hoped for after all preparation is made. God does not
duplicate his work, and that which he gives man faculties to discover,
he will not afterward bring to him by an express revelation.

The second method of imparting unction and feeling to the coldness of
thought, is by meditating on the great truths and promises of
Christianity. This subject is well treated in Baxter’s “Saint’s Rest,”
though not with reference to the wants of the orator. The power of
long-continued and earnest meditation varies in different persons, but
all can acquire it to some degree. It may be defined as a method of
transporting ones-self from a sense of the present reality to an ideal
situation—reaching and experiencing the feelings that would naturally
arise in that situation. Thus we may experience some of the pleasures of
heaven and the society of the blest. We may walk the plains of Galilee
with the Lord and behold his wondrous love there manifested, almost as
if we mingled with the throng who hung on his gracious words; we may
turn to the time of our own conversion, and recall the passage from
despair to conscious life; or look forward to the day of our death, and
think of its mingled sorrow and triumph. It is a kind of waking dream by
which the mind is filled with one idea to the exclusion of all others.
And when we select some high object of contemplation and return often to
it, we acquire a susceptibility of strong and fervent emotion on that
subject which it requires only a word to arouse. An illustration of this
is often found in the case of an inventor or discoverer who has dwelt on
one subject until his whole mind is filled with it, and he cannot hear
it mentioned without the deepest feeling. However cold and listless he
may be on other subjects, touch but the sacred one of his fancy, and his
sparkling eye and animated voice tell how deeply you have roused the
whole man. What an advantage it must be to the extempore speaker, with
whom everything depends on feeling, to have all the cardinal facts he
proclaims surrounded by fountains of holy emotion, continually supplied
from the spring of meditation, and ready to flow copiously at the
slightest touch! Such trains of thought may be carried on in moments too
often given to idleness, and thus, not only will a mighty power be added
to our pulpit ministrations, but our whole life ennobled and enriched.
It has been conjectured that Milton’s mind, while composing “Paradise
Lost,” existed in the state of a sublime waking dream, in which the
forms of heaven and hell, chaos and creation, all mingled in one
glorious vision. Something of this nature, though not necessarily
continuous, must take place in the mental history of every true and
powerful Christian minister.

                              CHAPTER IV.

Thought is the workman of the mind, and requires materials upon which to
labor. We are such creatures of experience that we cannot go far beyond
a foundation of fact, or weave long trains of pure imagination. In the
wildest fiction the mind can only combine and rearrange what was
previously known. This necessity rests with added weight upon the
preacher. He cannot invent his materials in the sense the poet can, but
must confine himself to the statement of unadulterated truth.
Fortunately, he has no narrow field to explore, for all knowledge is
related to his themes. He has to speak of God, by whom everything
exists, and whose glory shines through all the works of his hand. The
truths he utters apply to the whole circle of life and its duties, yet
are so familiar and so often neglected, that he needs all his power to
make them touch the popular heart. There is no science that may not at
times be made available for illustrating or enforcing the word of God.

The want of extended knowledge will be more severely felt by an
extempore preacher, than by one who reads or recites. The latter has
time for selection, and may take the parts of a subject with which he is
familiar and pass over all others. But the former will find this very
dangerous. Extemporizing should be free and unfettered. The speaker must
be able to see his own way, and make it clear to his hearers. If he is
always anxious to avoid dangerous obstructions and steer around them, he
will lose that free flow of ideas in which much of the beauty of
unstudied speech consists. Let the man, therefore, who looks to the
preacher’s vocation, lay the foundation broad and deep in a complete
education, not only in that of the schools, for the knowledge they teach
is very defective, but let him know all the facts that hinge on common
life; the processes of the different pursuits and trades; the subjects
that most occupy the human mind; the arts and sciences in their wide
departments. We have no hesitation in affirming that preaching ought to
be more scientific than it often is; that is, when the preacher deals
with the phenomena of nature, he should speak of them in their true
form, as revealed by science, and not indulge in loose generalities or
popular misstatements. If he master these and all other branches of
knowledge, he will have at hand a fund of illustration that will never
grow old, and instead of being under the necessity of turning over books
of sermons, and hunting out figures of speech that have done duty for
generations, he will be supplied from nature’s great volume with those
that are ever fresh and new. They will be redolent of the morning dew,
the sparkle of sunlight, the life of humanity, rather than the must of

This knowledge constitutes only the rough material of thought. It is the
dust out of which the body is to be formed, and into which the breath of
life is to be breathed. The power of thinking comes from no accumulated
intellectual stores, but springs from the living energy of the soul
within. It is above all dead brute force, and fills a world of its own.
But we would lay the foundation of success in oratory by giving the mind
food, and providing for it a general acquaintance with the universe.
This may be superficial, for it is not given to man to be profound in
everything, but it will suffice to keep the preacher within the bounds
of truth, when, for a time, he leaves his own province.

But within that province, and on all topics he undertakes to discuss,
his knowledge should not be superficial. He must here hold out no false
light to lure mankind, but must speak because he knows the truth, and
feels that others ought to know it. He will then speak—and in his own
department he has the right to speak—“not as the Scribes and Pharisees,
but as one having authority.”

To this end the preacher must study the Bible most thoroughly. It is the
book from which he obtains his subjects, and the most powerful arguments
by which they are enforced. He must meditate on it by day and night with
earnest, loving zeal. There is not much profit in merely reading it
through once or twice a year. Read it prayerfully. Study the sense.
Strive to make it a living book. Realize the scenes it describes, the
events it records, and the deep mysteries it unfolds. There is no study
that will increase oratorical power more rapidly than the investigation
of the Holy Scriptures. They are the best models of eloquence, the
exhaustless armory from which the preacher draws his weapons. To be
“mighty in the Scriptures” is one of the highest recommendations he can
have; and, on the other hand, ignorance of the book it will be his life
labor to expound, is unpardonable, and will expose him to merited

Many books will be needed in forming a critical, living comprehension of
the Bible. The student should become familiar with the present aspect of
Palestine and the manners and customs of former ages. Judicious
commentaries will help him to penetrate through the covering which
thoughtlessness and familiarity have woven over the sacred page, down to
its vital meaning. Ancient history and Bible dictionaries will make
plain many obscure passages. But above all, the Holy Spirit throws a
flood of light over the whole book, and makes its dark places shine with
the radiance of truth. Get this first, in a living baptism, and all else
will be easy.

A knowledge of Theology is essential. It comes not with the same
authority as the Word, for it is only man’s interpretation of what God
has revealed, and no one has a right to bind others by the rule of his
own weak judgment. Yet we cannot despise assistance even here. He would
be very foolish who would insist on ignoring the light of science and
the accumulated lore of ages, that he might discover all truth for
himself. Life is so short and man’s intellect so slow, that an
individual standing alone would never get beyond the state of a savage.
We can weigh the evidence of truth in an hour that has taken years or
ages to discover. There is no way but to accept the aid of others even
in the matters that relate to God and our own souls, and use it to build
up a complete system of knowledge, being careful not to surrender our
independence of thought, nor do violence to our conscience.

The knowledge of what men have thought and done in the field of
revelation is indispensable. Without some degree of it no man is
prepared for the sacred office. It need not all be attained before
beginning to preach, but should be a constant aim. The preacher should
always be a diligent student. He will never reach the end. Even when his
head is whitening for the grave he will find the book of God an
unexhausted mine, and the interest of newly-discovered truth will impart
such charm and vigor to his discourses that they will never grow old.
Theology is a vast science, embracing all others—an infinite field where
man may exert all his powers, and never cease for want of new realms to

The preacher labors in the field of humanity, and aims to better the
present and future condition of mankind. He needs to understand his
ground, as well as the instruments of his labor. It is through him that
divine truth reaches the hearts of the multitude. Unless he can cause
the people to think new thoughts, and be ruled by new motives, wisdom
and learning and brilliancy are all in vain. A knowledge of the heart,
and of the best methods of reaching it, are of first importance. No
matter if the preacher speaks a truth; unless that particular truth has
an adaptation to the present wants of those whom he addresses, it will
be, in a great measure, unfruitful. The love of God, the story of the
Cross, with many other things revealed in the Bible, are suited to all
ages and all men. But the consolations intended for a time of sorrow
would fall strangely on the ear of a bridal party. Exhortations to
repentance would be lost upon a congregation of sincere Christians.
Different shades of experience need to be met by appropriate
instruction; and the minister who does not watch all changing
circumstances, and carefully adapt his words to them, will fail of the
highest usefulness. It may be objected that, in large assemblies, the
presentation of any truth will benefit some person, and that all cannot
be reached at once. This is partly true; but the attentive minister will
find currents of thought moving in his congregation from day to day, and
will be surprised to see how often the people are thinking about the
same objects. At one time, the minds of many will be tinged with
unbelief; at another, spiritualism will have its votaries; and again,
genuine, earnest searching for the truth will be apparent. He, who so
thoroughly knows the heart that he can detect the signs of these
changes, has the advantage possessed by a general who is acquainted with
all the plans of his antagonist. A close observer once said that a
certain minister would never be a revivalist, because he did not seem to
understand the movements of the Spirit. There was truth in his judgment,
although the deficiency was rather in understanding human nature. That
preacher who can look over his congregation as he speaks, and discern
something of the state of their hearts, can strike directly to the mark,
while the strength of another might be wasted.

A general knowledge of the motives by which men are governed will also
be of service. We must employ proper arguments when we seek to influence
our hearers, for truth may be so presented as to repel rather than
attract. We should know how to appeal to self-interest, for most follow
what they believe to be its dictates. We should be able to excite their
love and sympathy; in short, we ought to ascertain what motive is
powerful enough to move them, and employ it. This quick and accurate
knowledge of the heart is especially valuable to the man who preaches
without notes. Looking into the eyes of the congregation, he will see
their passing thoughts and emotions often indicated with great
precision. He will thus know when it is best to dwell on any particular
argument, and can press it home, or leave it, before the audience is
wearied. He will, all the time, have the advantage of seeing his way
distinctly, instead of stumbling along like a blind man who is conscious
of no obstacle until brought into contact with it. To reap this profit,
he must be able to read the expressions and changes that the heart
throws over the countenance—visible signs of its own state.

The proper way to obtain a practical knowledge of men is to mingle with
and study them. A preacher has great opportunities for this. He need not
fear to lower his dignity or impair his influence by a free and easy
intercourse with all classes. The people have acute perceptions, and
will give him credit for all that is good in him; and he has no right to
demand more. Indeed, if he have not native goodness and intelligence
enough to retain the confidence of his people in the closest social
intercourse, the sooner he relinquishes his office the better for all
concerned. It is no excuse to say that he cannot spare time from his
studies; for no labor will more surely bring a return of added power and
eloquence than the study of his flock around their own hearths. The best
books are only transcripts of the human heart, and here he can study the
original in all its freshness.

But merely to mingle with the people will not fully cultivate this
critical knowledge of character, unless it is made a particular study. A
good way of doing this is to write down our first thoughts and
impressions of persons we come in contact with, and test our correctness
by subsequent experience. We thus discover the source of our errors, and
avoid them in future, and, at the same time, form a habit of observation
which, if continued for years, will increase the acuteness of our
perceptions until we are able to read men at the first glance.

But most valuable of all means for attaining this power, is a thorough,
practical acquaintance with Phrenology. Much ridicule has been thrown on
this science by traveling imposters, who have practiced
character-reading, together with witchcraft and fortune-telling—just as
astronomy and astrology were once joined. But such associations are not
more necessary than that sometimes supposed to exist between geology and
unbelief. Phrenology is a branch of the inductive sciences, established
and tested by observation and experiment. Its two cardinal principles
are: First, that the brain is the organ of mind; second, that different
mental functions are performed by different parts of the brain. The
latter is no more unreasonable than to suppose that the different bodily
actions, walking, lifting, eating, smelling, etc., are performed by
different parts of the body. The first proposition is admitted by all;
and if the second is allowed to be reasonable, it then becomes easy to
determine whether the correspondence of faculty and organ in any case is
sufficiently proved. The poets, Whittier and Bryant, Horace Greeley and
the eminent educator, Horace Mann, all professed to derive great
advantage from the study. Henry Ward Beecher, who stands among the first
of living orators, attributes all his power “in making sermons _fit_” to
the early and constant study of Phrenology. It is an instructive fact,
that although the different organs were discovered singly and at long
intervals, yet when the contributions of many laborers have been brought
together, the result is a most beautiful and perfect mental
philosophy—contrasting with the warring systems of metaphysics as the
clear sunlight does with clouds and night. We give it as a deliberate
opinion that it is better for the preacher to remain ignorant of any one
of the natural sciences or learned languages, than to neglect that study
which unfolds the laws of mind and teaches us to understand our fellow

                               CHAPTER V.

The ability to convey our thoughts to others may be very greatly
increased by culture. The vastest accumulations of learning will not be
useful to the world unless there is an available channel by which they
may be transmitted. We will consider a few of the elements that make a
man ready in communicating his ideas.

Imagination is often thought to be unnecessary to the sacred orator; but
if he resign to the poet and novelist that faculty that deals with
beauty in all its forms, the lovers of beauty will be apt to desert the
churches and seek gratification where it can be found. Imagination, in
its legitimate sphere, is as necessary as the power of reasoning, or the
sentiment of devotion. It deals with truth as well as fiction, and gives
to its possessor the creative, life-breathing spirit of poetry. Listen
to the description of any piece of natural scenery by a person of
imagination and another destitute of it. They may describe with equal
truthfulness, and even allude to the same objects; but one will give a
dry catalogue of facts, on which the mind cannot fix without painful
effort, while the other gives a picture that fills us with delight. The
same difference is apparent in the commonest things. In relating a story
or enforcing an argument, the man who has this rare and wonderful power
will make his words glow with life, and arrest our attention.

It has been said of Henry Ward Beecher, who possesses so strong an
imagination, that the people would listen with wonder if he were only
describing the way a potato grew. This is literally true. He would see
in it a thousand beauties no one else had thought of, and paint the
picture with a force and accuracy that would command attention. His own
conceptions are exceedingly clear, and while his knowledge is great, his
imagination enables him to concentrate everything into a clear and vivid

Even the Bible, which is the preacher’s great example, is pre-eminently
a book of imagination. Nowhere is there loftier or more beautiful
imagery employed, or truth wrought into more exquisite forms. A few
short and simple words paint pictures that the world looks upon with
astonishment from age to age. The first chapters of Genesis contain as
much poetry as Paradise Lost; in fact, it is the poetry of these
chapters interpreted by a mighty mind that illuminates the most sublime
imaginative poem in the language of man. Job and Isaiah are without
rivals in the mighty imagination that “bodies forth the forms of things
unknown.” Even the New Testament, which we usually consider as a plain
narrative, sparkles with true poetry. Where will we find a more graceful
thought than that of our Saviour’s: “Consider the lilies of the field,
how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; yet I say unto you,
that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” The
Book of Revelation is full of glorious and awful figures addressed to
the imagination.

With such sanctions, the preacher need not fear to employ all of this
faculty that God has given him. Many of his subjects are in the remote
past, and can only be brought near enough to the people to awaken their
interest by one who can view them as present. There is no possibility of
novelty in our themes. Times are altered since Paul was accused as a
setter-forth of strange doctrines. Men have listened to the same stories
all their lives. Yet if the preacher can make the sublime scenes of the
Bible live in his own mind, he can describe them with the vivacity of an
eye-witness. All have noticed the interest excited in the midst of a dry
sermon by a simple story. The reason is, that the preacher was, at
first, dealing with abstractions—mere words, and nothing more—but when
he came to the story his heart and imagination took hold on it. The same
interest may be excited in any part of a sermon if the speaker can but
throw his own soul into it, and see what he describes.

The account of the storming of Lookout Mountain, as given by Bishop
Simpson, was a fine illustration of this. The incident is perfectly
familiar, and in describing it he used simple words, without the false
brilliancy that sometimes passes for eloquence. There was no particular
charm in his manner, but his imagination grasped the magnificent
achievement, and it stood out in all its fullness before the eyes of the
audience. They saw the old flag disappear in the cloud, and the long
lines of blue wind up the mountain until they were hidden in the same
obscurity; heard the thunder that man’s artillery made boom out of the
bosom of the cloud; then saw the flag emerge from the mist and heard the
cheer of victory ringing down from the sky. The effect upon the audience
was overwhelming, and irrepressible tears streamed from the eyes of all.

Such glory may be thrown around the teaching of the Bible, and every
word be true; and the audience will enjoy it more than if they were
actually carried back to the olden time and witnessed its wondrous
scenes with their own eyes; for they will have—what so many feel the
want of when gazing on memorable scenes—some one to interpret their
feelings and give them living sympathy.

While illustrations and comparisons flow principally from the reasoning
faculties, they derive their beauty from imagination. Without its
influence they may explain and simplify, but have no power to interest
the hearer or elevate the tenor of the discourse. Beecher excels in this
as in so many other things, and while his similes may take hold of the
most common things, they are always highly imaginative and appropriate.

How may imagination be cultivated? It is said that “poets are born, not
made;” but the foundation of every other faculty is in nature, while all
are useless unless improved and applied. It, too, will increase in power
by use. Imagination is the faculty that forms complete images from the
detached materials furnished by the senses. It takes from all sources,
and mixes and mingles until a perfect picture is formed. Now, the proper
way of cultivating it is by forming just such pictures. Let the preacher
throw on the canvas of the mind every part of his sermon that is capable
of sensible representation. It is not enough to have all the facts, but
he must cast them into the very shape he wishes them to take. A great
part of every sermon may thus be made pictorial, and be far more easily
remembered, and more effectively delivered. Even in doctrinal sermons,
use may be made of this principle, by forming clear mental images of the
illustrations, which are mostly from material objects. When Henry Bascom
was asked how he succeeded in preaching so well, he said that it was by
painting everything vividly in his mind, and then speaking of it as he
saw it before him. He was a man of unbounded imagination, and perhaps
allowed it too much influence in his discourses; but his example is most
instructive to that large number who have not enough to prevent their
sermons from being dim and dry.

But the preacher must use this faculty with great care, for it is an
edged tool. He deals in sacred things, and while he may approach the
burning bush where the Lord is, he must go with naked feet and softest
tread. Above all, truth and propriety may never be violated. That
imaginative preacher who pictured to his hearers the bustle of a railway
station, the rush of the train, the crowding of friends around to
welcome the passengers, and conspicuous among them, the gray-haired
father of the prodigal son, hurrying with tottering steps to the edge of
the platform, and there grasping the returning penitent by the hand, may
have produced a vivid picture, but his sermon scarcely tended to

This faculty may also be cultivated by reading and pondering the works
of those who have it in a high degree of perfection. The time devoted to
the study of the great poets is not lost. They give richness and tone to
the speaker’s mind, introduce him into scenes of ideal beauty, and
furnish him with many a striking thought and glowing image to be woven
into his future discourses.

Many of the sciences give as full scope to imagination in its best
workings as the fields of poesy. Astronomy and geology stand pre-eminent
in this particular. Everything about them is great. They deal with
immense periods of time, immeasurable magnitudes and sublimest
histories. Hugh Miller’s “Vision of Creation” is as replete with
imagination as a play of Shakespeare, and his other works sparkle with
the same radiant spirit. Each science requires the formation of mental
images, and thus approaches the domain of poetry. The dryness of
mathematical and scientific study is a pure myth. A philosopher once
said that poetry and the higher branches of science depended on the same
powers of mind. He was right. The poet is a creator who forms new worlds
of his own, and “gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.”
He pictures the idea that arises in his brain in all the vividness of
outward form. The man of science is required to do the same thing, with
the advantage, perhaps, of a few scattered hints. The geologist may have
a few broken bones, a withered leaf, and some fragments of rock, from
which to bring before him the true “forest primeval,” through which
roamed gigantic animals, and dragons more unsightly than ever figured in
Grecian mythology. The astronomer has the half dozen phenomena he can
observe with his telescope from which to conceive the physical
appearance of distant worlds. In every science the same need for
imagination in its high, truthful function exists, and the same
opportunity is afforded for its cultivation.

An eminent elocutionist once advised his class to employ all pauses in
mentally painting the idea conveyed in the coming sentence. By this
means, he said, the expression of the voice would be made deeper and
truer. If this is so important in reciting the words of others, how much
more should we observe it when improvising sentences as well as

Our conceptions may remain vague and intangible while within the mind,
but they can only reach others by taking the definite form of language.
It by no means follows that a man who has important ideas and deep
emotions, will be able to communicate them; but if he have a moderate
endowment of language it may be so cultivated as to answer all his
requirements. We have no doubt that diligent and long-continued practice
in the methods indicated below will enable the vast majority of men to
express their thoughts with clearness and fluency.

There are certain laws in every language, made binding by custom, which
cannot be transgressed without exposing the transgressor to ridicule.
These constitute grammar, and must be thoroughly learned. If a man has
been under the influence of good models in speech from childhood,
correctness will be a matter almost of instinct; but the reverse of this
is usually the case.

At the present day, there is little difficulty in learning to write in
accordance with the rules of composition; and when the power has been
attained, we have a standard by which to judge our spoken words. But it
is not enough for the extempore speaker to be able, by long effort, to
reduce his sentences to correctness. That should be the first and
spontaneous form in which they present themselves. He has no time to
think of right or wrong constructions, and the only safe way is to make
the right so habitual that the wrong will not once be thought of. In
other words, we must not only be able to express ourselves correctly by
tongue and pen, but the very current of thought which is flowing
ceaselessly through our brain, and which is usually clothed in unspoken
words, must be in accordance with the laws of language. When we have
attained the power of precise and accurate thinking, we will have no
difficulty in avoiding the ridiculous blunders sometimes supposed to be
inseparable from extemporaneous speech.

Correct pronunciation is also of great importance. Usage has the same
authority here as in the collocation of words, and has assigned to each
one its proper sound, which no speaker can mistake without being exposed
to misconception and damaging criticism. A deficient knowledge of
pronunciation is apt to produce another and extremely hurtful effect.
The mental effort necessary to determine between two different sounds
that may be suggested, is liable to divert the mind from the subject it
is engaged upon, and thus occasion embarrassment and hesitation. That
accuracy in the use of words, which is the charm of spoken no less than
written composition, may also be impaired; for if two or more terms for
one object flash into the speaker’s mind, only one of which he is
confident of his ability to pronounce, he will be strongly tempted to
use that one, even if it be the least suitable. He ought to know how to
pronounce all common words, and be so familiar with the right sound and
accent, that no other will ever enter his mind. Then he will be able to
select the terms that convey his meaning most clearly and strongly.

One blunder in pronunciation should be particularly shunned by every
person of good taste. This is the omission of the sound of “r” in places
where it rightly belongs. It is strange that this shameful perversion of
language should be popular in certain circles. It is so easily observed
and corrected that the poor excuse of ignorance is scarcely admissible,
and in general it can be attributed only to silly affectation. This
sound is as musical as most others, and the attempt to improve the
melody of our speech by its omission is on a par with the efforts of our
great-grandmothers to improve their beauty by affixing patches to their
cheeks and noses.

Fluency and accuracy in the use of words are two qualities that have
often been confounded, but are really distinct. They are of equal
importance to the speaker, while the writer has most need of the latter.
All words have separate and well-defined meanings. They are not the
product of a day, but have been building up through long ages. By
strange turns, and with many a curious history, have they glided into
the significations they now bear; but each one has become imbedded in
the minds of the people as the representative of a certain idea. No two
words are precisely alike. They are delicate paints that, to the
untutored eye, may seem of one color, but each of which has its own
place in the picture created by the hand of genius, that can be supplied
by no other. Many ways have been suggested to learn these fine shades of
meaning. It is often supposed that the study of the so-called learned
languages—Latin and Greek—is the best and almost only method. This will
certainly give a large amount of information concerning the origin and
formation of words; but it cannot fix their signification at the present
day, for radical changes of meaning often take place. A linguist can use
his knowledge to great advantage; but the man who knows no language but
his own need not consider himself as debarred from the very highest
place as a master of words. He can obtain the same knowledge in a more
condensed and accessible form by the study of a good etymological
dictionary. In general reading, let him mark every word he does not
perfectly understand, and referring to the dictionary, find what it came
from, the meaning of its roots, and its varied significations at the
present day. This will make the word so familiar, that, when he meets it
again, it will seem like an old acquaintance, and he will notice if the
author uses it correctly. He may not be able thus to study every word in
the language, but will be led to think of the meaning of each one he
sees; and from this silent practice will learn the beauty and power of
the English tongue as perfectly as if he were master of the languages of
Greece and Rome. If this habit is long-continued, it will teach him to
use words truly in his very thoughts, and then he cannot mistake even in
the hurry of speech.

Translating from any language, ancient or modern, will have just the
same tendency to teach accurate expression as careful original
composition. In either case, improvement comes from the search for words
that will exactly convey certain ideas, and it matters not what the
source of these latter may be. The use of a good manual of synonyms—a
thesaurus, or storehouse of words—may be of service, by showing all
terms that relate to any object in one view, and allowing us to choose
the most suitable.

But none of these methods will very greatly increase our fluency. There
is a difference between merely knowing a term and that easy use long
practice alone can give. Elihu Burritt, with his fifty languages, has
often been surpassed in fluency, force and variety of expression by an
unlettered rustic, because the few words the latter knew were always
ready. This readiness will always increase by use. The blacksmith’s arm,
hardening by the exertion it puts forth, is a trite illustration of the
effect of exercise; and the man who is always applying to ideas and
things the verbal signs by which they are known, will increase the
facility with which he can call them to mind. If he does not employ them
properly, his manner will not improve, and with all his fluency he will
speak incorrectly. But if he speak in accordance with established usage,
his ability will daily increase.

Conversation is an excellent means for this kind of cultivation. We do
not mean a running fire of question and answer, glancing so rapidly back
and forth as to give no time for premeditating or explaining anything,
but real, rational talk—an exchange of ideas, so clearly expressed as to
make them intelligible. The man who deals much in this kind of
conversation can scarcely fail to become a master of the art of
communicating his thoughts in appropriate language. Talk, express your
ideas when you can with propriety, or when you have an idea to express.
Do it in the best way possible. If hard at first, it will become easier,
and thus you will learn eloquence in the best and most pleasing school.
For the common conversational style—that in which man deals with his
fellowman—is the germ of true oratory. It may be amplified and
systematized; but talking bears to eloquence the same relation the soil
does to the tree that springs from its bosom.

But the best thoughts of men are seldom found floating on the sea of
common talk. If we wish to drink the deepest inspiration, our minds must
come often in loving contact with the words of the great and mighty of
every age. There we will find “thought knit close to thought;” and, what
is more to the present purpose, words, in their best acceptance, so
applied as to breathe and live. We can read these passages until their
spirit sinks into our hearts, and their melody rings in our ears like a
song of bliss. If we commit them to memory, it will be a profitable
employment. The words of which they are composed, with the meanings they
bear in their several places, will thus be fixed in our minds, and ready
to drop on our tongues when they are needed. This conning of passages is
not recommended for the purpose of quotation, though they may often be
thus used to good advantage; but to print the individual words of which
they are composed more deeply on the memory.

This may be effected also by committing selections from our own
compositions. What is thus used should be polished, and yet preserve, as
far as possible, the natural form of expression. When this is done to a
moderate extent, it has a tendency to elevate the character of our
extemporaneous efforts by erecting a standard that is our own, and
therefore suited to our tastes and capacities, at the very highest point
we can reach. But if this is made habitual, it will interfere with the
power of spontaneous production, and thus contribute to destroy the
faculty it was designed to cultivate. Ministers who write and commit all
their sermons, are accustomed to read from a mental copy of their
manuscript; and the force of habit binds them more and more closely to
it until they cannot speak otherwise. When such persons are unexpectedly
called upon to make a speech, they do it, not in the simple, easy
language that becomes such an occasion, but by throwing together bits of
previously-committed addresses. They have made what might be an agent of
improvement, the means of so stereotyping their minds that they can only
move in one channel unless time is given them to dig out another.

There is no means of cultivating language that surpasses extempore
speech itself. The only difficulty is to find occasion to speak often
enough. The pioneer Methodist itinerants, who had to preach every day in
the week, enjoyed this mode of cultivation to its full extent; and
whatever may be thought of their other merits, their fluency of speech
is beyond question. But long intervals of preparation bring
counterbalancing advantages at the present time. Let these be improved
in the way indicated hereafter, and the preacher will come to the sacred
desk with a power increased by each effort.

When a thought is clearly understood, it will fall into words as
naturally as a summer cloud, riven by lightning, dissolves into rain. So
easy is it to express an idea, or series of ideas, that have been
completely mastered, that a successful minister once said: “It is a
preacher’s own fault if he ever fails in a sermon. Let him prepare as he
ought, and there is no danger.” The assertion was too sweeping, for
there are sometimes external causes that will prevent full success. Yet
there is no doubt that the continuance of this thorough preparation, in
connection with frequent speaking, will give very great ease of
expression. “The blind, but eloquent” Milburn, says, that he gave four
years of his life—the time spent as chaplain at Washington—to acquire
the power of speaking correctly and easily without the previous use of
the pen, and considered the time exceedingly well spent. His manner is
that most difficult to acquire—the diffuse, sparkling, rhetorical style
so much prized by those who prefer flower to fruit. An earnest, nervous,
and yet elegant style can be acquired by most persons in much less time.

There is another thought that those who complain of deficient language
would do well to ponder. No one can use words well on any subject of
which he is ignorant. The most fluent man, who knows nothing of
astronomy, would find himself at great loss for words if he attempted to
explain the phenomena of the heavenly bodies. Even if he were shown an
orrery, and thus led to comprehend their motions, he would still be
ignorant of the proper terms by which such knowledge is conveyed. If he
attempted to explain what he understood so imperfectly, he would be apt
to hesitate, and finally use words and names incorrectly. As our ideas
become clear and defined, there is an intense hungering for the terms by
which they are expressed; and this hunger will lead to its own supply.
Let us increase our fluency by extending the bounds of our knowledge;
but ask of language nothing more than belongs to its true function—to
furnish means of expression for the ideas we already possess.

The voice, assisted by gesture, forms the immediate link between the
speaker and his audience. Its qualities are of great importance,
although, in some quarters, over-estimated. A good voice, well managed,
gives powerful and vivid expression to thought, but cannot answer as a
substitute for it. Neither is it indispensable. We have known many and
great instances of success against much vocal disadvantage; but this
only proves that its absence may be compensated by other excellencies.
We can never be indifferent to the charm of a well-modulated voice,
bending to every emotion, and responsive to the finest shades of
feeling. It makes ordinary talk so smooth and pleasant as to be
generally acceptable, but can never raise it to greatness. The instances
that are given to prove this, do not seem capable of bearing such an
interpretation. Whitefield is sometimes spoken of as an instance of what
can be accomplished by masterly elocution; but he was a man of fervent,
if not profound thought. His emotion was overpowering, and his voice,
with all its melody, was only an instrument for its expression. Let a
bad or indifferent man have Whitefield’s voice and manner in
completeness, and he would be but a disgusting declaimer. It is soul
that must speak through the voice to other souls, and only thus can the
mighty effects of eloquence be produced.

We do not think there is much virtue in the merely mechanical training
of the voice. To teach the pupil just what note on the scale he must
strike to express a particular emotion, how much of an inflection must
be used to indicate sudden joy or sorrow, and how many notes down the
scale mark a complete suspension of sense, is absurd. Speech can never
be set to music.

But from this let it not be inferred that the cultivation of the voice
is useless. It is the instrument for the expression of thought, and the
more perfect it can be made the better it is fitted for its high office.
It would be well for the preacher to spend some time every day for years
in vocal training, for there is nothing more susceptible of improvement
than the voice. The passion excited during animated speech will demand
almost every note and key within its compass, and unless it has been
previously trained on these, it may fail. To prepare in this way by
exploring the range of the voice, and testing all its capabilities, has
in it nothing mechanical or slavish. It is only like putting a musical
instrument in tune before beginning to play.

Nothing contributes so much to give ability to manage the voice as the
separation of words into the simple elements of sound, and continued
practice in the enunciation of these. They can be best learned from the
short-hand system of tachygraphy or phonography, or from the phonetic
print. In these we find sound resolved into its elements, which are but
few in number, and on which we can practice until every difficulty in
enunciation is overcome. If there is a fault in our articulation, we
will find just where it is, and can bring all our practice directly to
its remedy. When we are able to give clearly each one of the separate
sounds of the language—not many over forty in number—we can easily
follow them into all their combinations, and are thus master of the
first great excellency in speaking—good articulation. Nor is this all.
We can then practice on the same elements, at different degrees of
elevation on the musical scale, until we can strike every one in full
round distinctness at each point, from the shrillest note used in speech
to the deepest bass. Then the whole field of oratory is open before us.

But there is still another advantage: if our strength of voice be not so
great as we would wish, we can take the same sounds, and by practicing
upon them with a gradually-increasing effort, attain all the force our
organs are capable of, and even increase their power to a degree that
would be incredible, were it not so often proved by actual experiment.
When engaged in these practices, we will notice a distinction between
the vowel sounds—that while some of them may be prolonged indefinitely,
others are made at a single impulse. Following out these ideas, we will
increase the rapidity of the second until they can be struck with all
the suddenness of the report of a pistol, and one after another so
rapidly that the ear can scarcely catch the distinction between them.
This will enable us to avoid drawling, and help us to speak with
rapidity when we desire it, without falling into indistinctness. We next
learn to prolong the other vowels, and thus to make them carry the
sounds of words to the greatest distance. The full, deliberate
enunciation of a word is audible much further than the most violent
shout. The passenger calling to the ferryman across the river does not
say OVER in one single violent impulse, or, if he does, he is not heard,
but o-o-ver; and even if his tone is gentle, the hills ring again, and
the ferryman is aroused. Let this principle be brought into use in
public speaking, and soon no hall will be too large for the compass of
the voice.

The different extensions of sounds, as well as their pitch on the
musical scale, and variations of force in enunciation, constitute the
perspective of the art of oratory, and give it an agreeable variety,
like the mingling of light and shade in a well-executed picture. A dull,
dead uniformity, in which each word is uttered on the same key, with the
same degree of force, and each sound enunciated with the same rapidity,
would be utterly unbearable; while a perpetual variety, reflecting in
each rise and fall, each storm and calm of sound, the living thought
within, is the perfection toward which we must strive.

Little can be done in training the voice beyond these elementary
exercises. The expression in the moment of speech may safely be left to
the impulse of nature. Supply the capability by previous discipline,
then leave passion to clothe itself in the most natural forms. We
believe there is such a connection between the emotions of the mind and
the different tones of voice, that emphasis, inflection and intonation
need not be taught. They will well up from the heart itself. Reading may
require more teaching, for its very nature is artificial; and it behoves
those who read their sermons to study hard to supply the want of emotion
and naturalness by the resources of elocution. But the only effect of
rules upon the speaker, so far as he heeds them at all, is to make him a
cold and lifeless machine. The child that is burnt needs no instruction
to find the right tone to express its pain, so that every one who hears
it knows that it is suffering. It strikes the key-note of joy and every
other emotion with equal certainty. Let nature but have her way,
untrammeled by art, and every feeling that arises will mold the voice to
its will, and every heart will recognize and respond to the sound. We
may in this way miss the so-called “brilliancy” of theatric clap-trap,
but our voices will have that “touch of nature that makes the whole
world kin.”

Something may be done by observing the world closely and thus becoming
more deeply permeated by that atmosphere of sympathy and passion that
wraps all men into one family, and forms a medium of communication
deeper and more wide-spread than any language of earth. It is also
profitable to listen to the great orators who have mastered the
mysteries of speech, not for the purpose of imitating them, but that we
may appreciate better what true excellence is. Yet it is hurtful to
confine our attention too long to one model, for excellence is
many-sided, and if we view only one of its phases, we are apt to fall
into slavish imitation—the greatest of all vices. We avoid this by
looking upon many examples, and making use of them only to elevate our
own ideal. Then, without a conscious effort to reproduce anything we
have heard, we will be urged to greater exertions, and the whole level
of our attainments raised.

There are abundant faults to mar the freedom of nature; and the speaker
who would be truly natural must watch vigilantly for them, and, when
found, exterminate them without mercy. The sing-song tone, the scream,
the lisp, the guttural and tremulous tones, must be weeded out as they
come to the surface; and if the preacher’s own egotism is too great to
see them, or his taste not pure enough, some friend ought to point them
out for him. At the bar, or in political life, the keen shaft of
ridicule destroys such things in those who are not incorrigible; but in
the pulpit they are too often suffered to run riot because the sacred
nature of its themes prohibits ridicule, and causes every one to endure
in silence.

But there is one fault that over-tops all others, and constitutes a
crying sin and an abomination before the Lord. Would that every hearer
who suffers by it had the courage to go to his minister and tell him of
the torture he inflicts. He could not long endure such an overwhelming
fire brought to bear on him. It is what is sometimes designated as the
“solemn or holy tone.” It prevails to an alarming extent. Men who, out
of the pulpit, are varied and lively in their conversation, no sooner
enter it than it seems as if some evil spirit had taken possession of
them and enthroned itself in their voice, which at once sinks into a
measured, or rather measureless drawl, with each word sloping down a
precipice of falling inflections. It conceals ideas as perfectly as ever
Talleyrand did; for surely no idea, even of living light, could
penetrate through such a veil. Men who thus neutralize their talents and
contribute to render religion distasteful, will surely have to answer
for it at the great day of account. Let our style in the pulpit be
simple, earnest and manly. Let each emotion clothe itself in its own
language and tones, and then we will be above all rules, and all censure
too, for we will be under the infallible guidance of nature and the
Spirit of God.

Should we use a conversational tone in speaking? This question has often
been discussed, and although there is a great difference of opinion, yet
it seems to admit of satisfactory answer. The language of conversation
is the language of nature, and therefore it should be the basis of
speech. The same intonations that are used in it should be employed in
every branch of oratory. But the manner of conversation is not always
the same. The man who talks with a friend across a river would not use
the same tones as if he held that friend by the hand. And if a man is
speaking to a number at once, the very need of being heard will cause
him to speak somewhat louder than in addressing a single person. With
this exception, it might be safely laid down as a rule that a speech
should be commenced in the same manner as we would speak to an
individual. But should it be continued in that way? The orotund tone is
calculated to make a deeper impression than a higher key, or a less
degree of force. But there need be no solicitude about its employment.
Begin as a man who is talking to his friends upon an interesting subject
would do, and then, as the interest deepens, throw away all restraint of
voice. Let it follow passion, and it will naturally fall into the way
that will best express that passion. It will deepen into the
thunder-roar when that is needed, and will become soft and pathetic at
the right time.

But beware of thinking that you must be loud, in order to be impressive.
Nothing is more disgusting than that interminable roar, beginning with a
shout and continuing all through the sermon. It is worse than monotony
itself. The very loudness of voice that, applied at the right place,
would be overpowering, loses all power, and becomes as wearisome as the
ceaseless lashing of ocean waves to the storm-tost mariner. Strive to
have something to say, keep the fires of passion burning in your own
soul, and the voice, which has previously been diligently cultivated,
will not fail in what should be its only office—the bringing of your
thoughts into contact with the souls of others.

Books on oratory properly devote much space to the consideration of
gesture, for the eye needs to be addressed and pleased as well as the
ear. But we doubt whether the marking out of gestures to be imitated is
calculated to do much good. The principal use of training seems to be,
first, to overcome the backwardness that might freeze both speaker and
congregation; and second, to discard awkward and repulsive movements.
The first can be accomplished by a firm resolution, and is worthy of it.
We have all seen most eloquent men who did not move at all, or who moved
very slightly in the course of their address, but never without feeling
that the want of gesticulation detracted just so much from their power.
It is unnatural to speak standing still, and none but a lazy, sick, or
bashful man will do it. Yet many who do not hesitate to make their
voices reverberate to the roof, will fear to move even a finger. Let
this timidity be thrown off. Even an ungraceful gesture is better than
none at all.

But after the first fear has been overcome, and the speaker has learned
to use his hands, he next needs to guard against bad habits. If anything
is truly natural, it will be beautiful; but we are so much corrupted by
early example that it is hard to find what nature is. There is hardly a
public speaker who does not, at some time, fall into habits that are
unsightly or ridiculous. The difference in this respect is, that some
retain all the faults they once get, hanging and accumulating around
them; while others, from the warning of friends or their own
observation, discover their errors, and cast them off.

A good method of testing our own manner, from which we should not be
deterred by prejudice, is by speaking before a mirror. There is reason
for the common ridicule thrown upon this practice, if we recite our
sermons for the purpose of marking the proper points of gesture, and of
noting where to start, and frown, and wave the arm, so as to make the
whole mere acting. But what we advise is to speak before the glass in as
earnest and impassioned a manner as we can command, not for practice on
the subjects we are to discuss, but that we may “see ourselves as others
see us.” In ordinary speaking we can hear our own voice, and thus become
sensible of any audible errors that we may fall into; but we need the
glass to show us how we look, and to make us see any improper movement
that we may have unconsciously contracted. We do not advise the recital
of a sermon before the glass. There is something cold and irreverent in
the very idea. But the same objection does not apply to ordinary

By these two processes—pressing out into action under the impulse of
deep feeling, as strongly and freely as possible, and by lopping off
everything that is not graceful and effective, we will soon attain a
good style of gesture. All mechanical imitation, all observance of
artificial rules, and especially all attempts to make the gesture
descriptive, such as pointing toward the object alluded to, placing the
hand on the heart to express emotion, etc., will do more harm than good.
The best gesticulation is entirely unconscious.

Frequently the speed or slowness of the gesture reveals more emotion
than its direction or form. The stroke, when it falls upon a particular
word, aids to make it emphatic, even when there is no observable
connection between the kind of movement made and the sentiment uttered.
Let the mind, intent on its subject, take full possession of the whole
body, as a medium of expression, and every action will correspond with
tone and word, and the soul of the hearer be reached alike through eye
and ear.

We have already spoken of boldness as an indispensable requisite for an
extempore speaker. But more is needed than the courage that leads us to
encounter the perils of speech. Some speakers master their fears
sufficiently to begin, yet continue to experience a nervous dread which
prevents the free use of their faculties. This clinging timidity may
hang around an orator, and impede his flights of eloquence as
effectually as an iron fetter would an eagle on the wing. The speaker
must confide in his own powers, and be willing to trust to their

It is not necessary that he should have this confidence previous to
speaking, for it is then very difficult to exercise it, and if
possessed, it may assume the appearance of egotism and boastfulness.
Many a man begins to speak while trembling in every limb, but soon
becomes inspired with his theme and forgets all anxiety. But if his fear
be greater than this, and keep him in perpetual terror, it will destroy
liberty and eloquence. A man under such an influence loses his
self-possession, becomes confused, all interest evaporates from his most
carefully-prepared thoughts, and he finally sits down, convinced that
his effort was a failure, while, perhaps, he had in his brain the
necessary power and material to sway the assembly at will. Such a one
must learn to fear less, or seek a higher support under his trials.

There is no remedy more effectual than to do all our work under the
immediate pressure of duty. If we speak for self-glory, the frowns or
approval of the audience become a matter of vast importance to us, and
if we fail, we are deeply mortified and bewail our foolishness in
exposing ourselves to such risks. On the contrary, if we speak from a
sense of duty, if we hear the cry, “woe is me if I preach not the
Gospel,” sounding in our ears, it is no longer a matter of choice, and
we go forward, even trembling, to obey the imperative command. Our mind
is fixed on our theme, and the applause of the multitude becomes of
small moment to us except as it is the echo of God’s approval. We feel
that we are his workmen, and believe that he will sustain us. Men have
thus been forward in the Christian ministry who would otherwise never
have faced the dangers and exposures of public speaking. They were
driven to it, and therefore threw themselves bravely into it, and often
attained the highest eminence.

A want of proper confidence is one great reason why so many with
superior talents for off-hand speaking seek refuge in their notes. They
try, and fail. Instead of copying the school-boy motto “try, try again,”
and thus reaping the fruition of their hopes, they give up—conclude that
they have no talents for the work, and sink to mediocrity and tameness,
when they might have been brilliant in the field of true oratory.

The possession of confidence while speaking secures respect and
deference. The congregation can pardon timidity at the beginning, for
then their minds are fixed on the speaker, and his shrinking seems to be
but a graceful exhibition of modesty and good sense. But after he has
once begun, their minds are on the subject, and they associate him with
it. If he is dignified, respectful and confident, they listen
attentively, and feel the weight of his words. This is far different
from bluster and bravado, which always injure the cause they advocate,
and produce a feeling of disgust toward the offender. The first seems to
arise from a sense of the dignity of the subject; the second from an
opinion of personal importance—an opinion no speaker has a right to
entertain when before an audience, for, in the very act of speaking to
them, he constitutes them his judges. He may have confidence in his own
power to present the subject faithfully, and he will speak with only the
more force and certainty if he is well assured of that, but he must not
let it be seen that he is thinking of himself, or trying to exhibit his
own genius.

A speaker needs confidence that he may avail himself of the suggestions
of the moment. Some of the best thoughts he will ever have, will be out
of the line of his preparation, and will occur at a moment when there is
no time for him to weigh them. He must reject them immediately or begin
to follow, not knowing whither they lead, and this not in thought alone,
but in audible words, with the risk that they may bring him into some
ridiculous absurdity. He cannot even stop to glance ahead, for the least
hesitation will break the spell he may have woven around his hearers,
while if he rejects the self-offered idea, he may lose a genuine
inspiration. A quick searching glance, that will allow no time for his
own feelings or those of his hearers to cool, is all that he can give,
and it is necessary in that time to decide whether to reject the
thought, or follow it with the same assurance as if the end were clearly
in view. It requires some boldness to do this, and yet every speaker
knows that his very highest efforts—thoughts that have moved his hearers
like leaves before the wind—have been of this character.

It also requires some confidence to begin a sentence, even when the idea
is plain, without knowing how it is to be framed or where it will end.
This difficulty is experienced very often in speech even by those who
are most fluent. A man may learn to cast sentences very rapidly, yet it
will take some time for them to pass through his mind, and when he has
finished one, the next idea may not have fully condensed itself into
words. To begin, then, with this uncertainty and go on without letting
the people see any hesitation, demands a good deal of confidence in
one’s power of commanding words and forming sentences. Yet a bold and
confident speaker feels no uneasiness on such occasions. Sometimes he
will prolong a pause while he is thinking of the word he wants, and
hazardous as this appears, it is really safe, for the mind is so active
when in the complete possession of its powers that, if necessary, as it
seldom is, something extraneous can easily be thrown in, that will fill
up the time until the right term and the right construction are found.

This necessary confidence can be cultivated by striving to exercise it,
and by assuming its appearance where the reality is not. Let a person
make up his mind that he will become an extempore speaker, and patiently
endure all failures and mistakes that follow, and he will thus avoid the
wavering and shrinking, and questioning in his own mind that otherwise
distress him and paralyze his powers. If he fail, he will be stimulated
to a stronger and more protracted effort. If he succeed, that will be an
argument upon which to base future confidence, and thus, whatever is the
result, he is forwarded on his course.

And in regard to the difficulty of sentence-casting, he will make his
way through so many perplexities of that kind, that the only danger will
be that of becoming careless, and constructing too many sentences
without unity or polish. He will acquire by long experience so much
knowledge of the working of his own thoughts, as to be able to tell at a
glance what he ought to reject, and what accept, of the unbidden ideas
that present themselves. He will be ready to seize every new thought,
even if it be outside of his preparation, and, if worthy, give it
instant expression; and if not, dismiss it at once and continue
unchecked along his intended route.

There is only one direction that we can give for the acquisition of the
confidence that is respectful and self-assured, and yet not forward nor
obtrusive. Be fully persuaded as to what is best for you, and make up
your mind to take the risks as well as the advantages of extempore
speaking. Then persevere until all obstacles are overcome.

We have thus glanced at a few of the more important acquired qualities
necessary for public speaking. These do not cover the whole field, for
to speak aright requires all the faculties of the mind in the highest
state of cultivation. There is no mental power that may not contribute
to the orator’s success. The whole limits of possible education are
comprised in two great branches: the one relating to the reception, and
the other to the communication of knowledge. The perfect combination of
these is the ideal of excellence—an ideal so high that it can only be
aspired to. All knowledge is of value to the orator. He may not have
occasion to use it directly in his speeches, but it will always be at
hand to select from, and give his views additional breadth and scope. If
his materials are few he must take, not what is best, but what he has.
If a wide extent of knowledge is open before him, the chances are that
he will find exactly what is needed for his purpose.

The improvement of the power to communicate knowledge is, if possible,
still more important. A great part of the value even of a diamond
depends upon its setting and polish, and the richest and most glowing
thoughts may fail to reach the heart or charm the intellect, unless they
are cast into the proper form, and given external beauty.

Let the man, then, who would speak well not fear to know too much. He
cannot be great at once. He must build for future years. If he wish a
sudden and local celebrity that will never increase, but molder away,
even in his own lifetime, he could, perhaps, attain it in another way.
He might learn a few of the externals of elocution, and then, with great
care, or by the free use of the material of others, prepare some
finely-worded discourses, and read or recite them as often as he can
find a new audience. It is true that by this means his success will
probably not be as great as he would wish, but he can be sure that what
he achieves will be sufficiently evanescent. He will not grow up to the
measure of greatness, but become daily more dwarfed and stereotyped in
intellect. But on the other hand, let him “intermeddle with all
knowledge,” and make his means of communicating what he thus gathers as
perfect as possible, and then talk to the people out of the fullness of
his treasures, and if no sudden and empty acclaim should greet him, he
will be weighty and influential from the first, and each year that
passes will bring him added power. The aim of the sacred orator should
be the full and harmonious development of all the faculties that God has
given him, and their consecration to his great work.

                                PART II.
                               A SERMON.

                               CHAPTER I.

We have thus far discussed the subject of preliminary training, and have
endeavored to show what natural qualities the preacher must possess, and
how these can be improved by diligent cultivation. The importance of a
wide scope of knowledge, and especially of that which bears upon
oratory; of understanding and having some command of the powers of
language; of having a personal experience of Christ’s pardoning love,
and a heart filled with desire for the salvation of our fellow men; of
believing that God has called us to the work of the ministry; has
already been pointed out. When a man finds himself in possession of
these, and is still a diligent student, growing daily in grace, he is
prepared to preach the Gospel in “demonstration of the spirit and of
power.” He is then ready to consider the methods by which all his gifts
and acquirements may be made available, and wielded with mightiest
effect in the service of his Master.

Some of the directions given in this and succeeding chapters are of
universal application, while others are to be regarded only as
suggestions, to be modified and changed according to individual taste,
or particular circumstances.

A plan is necessary to every sermon. A rude mass of brick, lumber,
mortar and iron, thrown together as the materials chance to be
furnished, does not constitute a house, and is worthless until each is
built into its appropriate place, in obedience to some intelligent
design. A sermon must be constructed in a similar manner. It may contain
much that is good, or useful, or striking, and be replete with sparkling
imagery, and full of ideas that will command the attention of the
audience, and yet completely fail. The only safe method is to have a
well-defined plan marked out from beginning to end, and to work
according to it.

It is always better to have this plan previously constructed. Sometimes
when we speak on a subject we have often thought over, its whole outline
will flash upon us in a moment, and we will speak as well as if we had
employed months in preparation. But such cases are rare exceptions. The
man who attempts, on the spur of the moment, to arrange his facts, draw
his inferences, and enforce his opinions, will find the task very
difficult, even if his memory promptly furnishes all the necessary

Every discourse, of whatever character, should have a subject and an
object. A sermon requires a text also, and these three constitute the
foundation upon which it is built. We will consider them separately.

A good plan cannot be constructed without an object in view. Why is it
that at a particular time a congregation assembles, and sits silent
while a man addresses them? What is his motive in standing up before
them and asking their attention? Many of the people may have been drawn
together by the lightest influences, but the minister, at least, should
be actuated by a noble purpose. If he has a clear aim before him, it
will tend powerfully to give unity and consistency to his discourse, and
prevent him from falling into endless digressions. It will bind all
detached parts together, and infuse a common life through the whole
mass. We cannot be too careful in the selection of such a ruling object,
for it will affect the whole superstructure.

Our purposes should not be too general. It is not enough that we should
wish to do good. Probably no minister ever preaches without that general
desire. But the important question is, “What special good do I hope to
accomplish by this sermon?” When he has decided this, he will then be
prepared to adapt his means to the end proposed, and the whole discourse
will acquire a definiteness and precision that would never otherwise
have belonged to it. The more we sub-divide our objects, the more will
this precision be increased, although there is a limit beyond which it
would be at the expense of other qualities. If we desire the salvation
of souls, it is well, and most powerful sermons have been preached with
that object in view. But if we narrow our immediate aim, and keep in
view only one of the steps by which the soul advances to God, it will
give our discourse a keener edge, and we can plead with those who have
not yet taken that step with more prospect of immediate success, than if
we at once placed the whole journey before them. For example, many
sermons may be preached with “repentance” as the central object, and
this duty enforced by various motives and innumerable arguments. We may
show that it is a duty, that man is lost without it, that Jesus calls
him to it, that God assists, that salvation follows it, etc.

Our objects usually have reference to the action of those who hear us,
and the more fully that action is understood, and the more earnest our
desire to produce it, the greater our persuasive power will be. If we do
not exactly know what we wish to accomplish, there is very little
probability that our audience will interpret our thoughts for us. We
may, it is true, labor to convince the judgment of our hearers, and make
them understand truth more clearly than before, but this is usually
because of the influence thus exerted on their actions.

The objects that should govern our sermons are comparatively few, and
ought to be selected with great care. Much of our success depends on
having the right one of these before us at the right time; for if we aim
at that which is unattainable, we lose our effort. If we preach
sanctification to a congregation of unawakened sinners, no power of
treatment can redeem the sermon from the cardinal defect of
inappropriateness. If we preach against errors which no one of our
hearers entertains, our logic is lost, even if the very errors we battle
against are not suggested. Let us carefully note the state of our
audience, and select for our object that which ought to be accomplished.

There is a difference between the subject of a discourse and its object;
the latter is the motive that impels us to speak, while the former is
what we speak about. It is not uncommon for ministers to have a subject
without any very distinct object. Their engagements require them to
speak, and a subject is a necessity. That which can be treated most
easily is taken, and all the ideas they possess, or can collect about
it, are given forth, and the matter left. Until such persons grow in
earnest, and really desire to accomplish something, they cannot advance
the cause of God.

The object of a sermon is the soul, while the subject is only the body;
or, we may say, the one is the end, and the other the means by which it
is accomplished. After the object is fixed the subject can be chosen to
much better advantage; for instance, if it be our object to lead the
penitent to the Cross, we may select any of the themes connected with
the crucifixion and dying love of Christ; we may show the sinner his
inability to fulfill the requirements of the law, and that he needs an
atoning sacrifice to save him from its penalty; we may show that the
salvation purchased is full and free. Many other branches of the same
great topic will be found suitable for the purpose in view.

This order of selection may sometimes be reversed to good advantage.
When a minister is stationed with a certain congregation, there are many
objects he wishes to accomplish, and often no strong reason for
preferring one in the order of time to another. It will then be well for
him to take that subject which may impress him, and bend his mind toward
an object he can enforce most powerfully through it.

On other occasions there is a particular end to be attained, which is
for the time all-important, and which thus furnishes the proper object.
Nothing then remains but for the preacher to choose a subject through
which he can work to the best advantage.

This is one great advantage the Methodists have in protracted meetings.
An object is always in view, and the congregation expect it to be
pressed home with power. No plea of general instruction will then save a
sermon from being thought worthless, if it does not produce an immediate
result. And even the much calumniated “mourners’ bench” contributes most
powerfully to the same result. There is something proposed which the
congregation can see, and through it judge of the preacher’s success or
failure. An outward act is urged upon the unbelieving portion of the
audience, by which they signify that they yield to the power of the
Gospel; and the very fact of having that before him as an immediate,
though not an ultimate aim, will stimulate the preacher’s zeal, and
cause him to put forth every possible exertion.

After all, the order in which subject and object are selected is not
very material. It is enough that the preacher has a subject that he
understands, and an object that warms his heart and enlists all his
powers. Then he can preach, not as if dealing with abstractions, but as
one who has a living mission to perform.

Every subject we treat should be complete in itself, and rounded off
from everything else. Its boundaries should be run with such precision
as not to include anything but what properly belongs to it. It is a
common but grievous fault to have the same cast of ideas flowing round
every text that may be preached from. There are few things in the
universe that have not some relation to everything else, and if our
topics are not very strictly bounded, we will fall into the vice of
perpetual repetition. Thus, in a book of sermon sketches we have
examined, nearly every one begins by proving that man is a fallen
creature, and needs the helps or is liable to the ills mentioned
afterward. No other thought is introduced until that primal point is
settled. This doctrine is of great importance, and does affect all man’s
relations, but we can sometimes take it for granted, without endangering
the edifice we build upon it, and occasional silence will be far more
impressive than that continual iteration, which may even induce a doubt
of what seems to need so much proof.

Ministers sometime acquire such a stereotyped form of thought and
expression that what they say in one sermon will be sure to recur,
perhaps in a modified form, in all others. This kind of preaching is
intolerable. There is an end to the patience of man. He tires of the
same old ideas, and wishes when a text is taken that it may bring with
it a new sermon. The remedy against this evil is to give each sermon its
own territory, and then guard rigidly against trespass. It is not a
sufficient excuse for the minister who preaches continually in one
place, that what he says has a natural connection with the subject in
hand, but it must have a closer connection with it, than with any other
he may use. By observing this rule, we make each theme the solar centre
around which may cluster a great number of secondary ideas, all of which
naturally belong to it, and are undisturbed by satellites from other

The subjects from which a preacher may choose are innumerable. The Bible
is an inexhaustible storehouse. Its histories, precepts, prophecies,
promises and threatenings, are almost endless. Then all the duties of
human life, and especially those born of the Christian character; the
best methods of making our way to the end of our journey; the hopes
after which we follow; the dangers that beset our path; the mighty
destinies of time and eternity, are a few of the themes that suggest
themselves, and afford room enough for the loftiest talent, during all
the time that man is allowed to preach on earth. If we would search
carefully for the best subjects, and, when found, isolate them from all
others, we would never need to weary the people by the repetition of
thoughts and ideas.

While, as a rule, we ought to shun controversial points, we should not
be afraid to lay hold of the most important subjects that are revealed
to man. These will always command attention; heaven and hell, judgment,
redemption, faith, the fall, and all those great doctrines upon which
the Christian religion rests, need to be frequently impressed on the
people. It is also profitable to preach serial sermons on great
subjects. The rise of the Jewish nation and economy would afford a fine
field for instruction. The life and work of Jesus Christ would be still
better. This latter series might consist of discourses on His birth,
baptism, temptation, first sermon, His teaching in general, some miracle
as a type of all others, transfiguration, last coming to Jerusalem,
Gethsemane, betrayal and arrest, trial, crucifixion, resurrection,
ascension and second advent. Many other subdivisions might be made. Such
linked sermons, covering a wide scope, instruct the people better than
isolated ones could, and afford equal opportunities for enforcing all
Christian lessons. Yet it would not be well to employ them exclusively,
or even generally, as such a practice would tend to wearisome sameness.

The subject must be well defined. It may be of a general nature, but our
conception of it should be so clear that we always know just what we are
speaking about. This is more necessary in an extempore speech than in a
written one, although the want of it will be felt severely even in the
latter. A strong, vividly defined subject will give unity and life to a
whole discourse, and often leave a permanent impression on the mind. To
aid in securing this, it will be well for the preacher, when he has
chosen a subject, to reduce it to its simplest form, and then by writing
it as a phrase or sentence, stamp it on the mind, and let it ring in
every word that is spoken; that is, let each word aid in carrying out
the great idea, or in leading to the desired object, and be valued only
so far as it does this. Those interminable discourses, that seem to
commence anywhere and end nowhere, may be called sermons by courtesy,
but they are not such in reality. The word “sermon” signifies “a
thrust,” which well expresses the concentrativeness and aggressiveness
that should distinguish it, and which nothing but a well-defined theme
can give. It ought not to glitter with detached beauties, like the
starry heavens, but shine with the single, all-pervading radiance of the

This unity of theme and treatment is not easily preserved. It is hard to
see in the mind’s eye what we know would please and delight those who
listen, and turn away and leave it, but it is often necessary to
exercise this more than Spartan self-denial, if we would not reduce our
sermons to mere random harangues. Not that illustration should be
discarded, for the whole realm of nature may be pressed into this
service, and a good illustration in the right place is often better than
an argument. But nothing, whatever its nature, should be drawn in,
unless it so perfectly coalesces with the parent idea, that a common
vitality flows through them. If this is the case, the unity will be
unbroken, though even then it often happens that the idea would produce
a better effect in connection with another theme, and should be reserved
for it.

Usage has established the practice of employing a passage of Scripture
as the basis of a sermon. This is of great advantage to the minister,
for it gives the discourse something of divine sanction, and makes it
more than a popular address. Opinion is divided as to whether it is best
to select the text, and arrange the discourse to correspond with it, or
reversing this order, to compose the sermon first, and thus secure the
harmony that arises from having no disturbing idea, and at the last
moment choose a text of Scripture that will fit it as nearly as

No doubt the comparative advantages of these methods will be to a great
degree determined by the occasions on which they are used. When a
subject is of great importance, and we wish to be precise in explaining
it, we may adopt the latter method, but the former is more generally
useful. There are so many valuable ideas and important suggestions in
the words of Scripture, that we can ill afford to deprive ourselves of
this help. For the Bible, with all its ideas, is common property. No
minister need fear the charge of plagiarism, when he borrows, either in
word or thought from its inspired pages. He is God’s ambassador, with
the Bible for his letter of instruction, and the more freely he avails
himself of it, if it be done skillfully, the better for the authority of
his mission. We may often select a subject that appears dark and
confused, but when we have found a passage of Scripture embracing the
same idea, there may be something in it that will solve every doubt, and
indicate the very thoughts we wish to enforce. For this reason we
believe that under ordinary circumstances, the practice of first
constructing the sermon and only at the last moment before delivery,
tacking on a text, is not the best.

Another reason in favor of previously selecting the text is worth
consideration. The people, who are not supposed to know anything of the
subject, expect, when we read a passage of Scripture, as the foundation
of our remarks, that it will be something more than a mere point of
departure. They anticipate that it will be kept always in view, and
furnish the key-note to the whole sermon. This is but reasonable, and if
disappointed, they will not so well appreciate what is really good in
the discourse. We would not sacrifice unity to a mere rambling
commentary on the words of the text. Let the subject be first in the
mind and bend everything to itself. But let the text be next in
importance, and the whole subject be unfolded with it always in view. It
may be feared that the work of sermonizing will be rendered more
difficult by observing this double guidance, but if a proper text be
chosen—one that, in its literal meaning, will embrace the subject—the
labor will be much lightened.

It is a common fault to take a passage of Scripture consisting of a few
words only, and put our own meaning upon it, without reference to the
intention of the inspired writer who penned it. This borders very
closely on irreverence. If we cannot use God’s words in the sense he
uses them, we had better speak without a text at all, and then our sin
will only be a negative one. The taking of a few words divorced from
their connection, and appending them to a discourse or essay, that has
no relation to their true meaning, is not less a profanation than it
would be to prefix the motto, “Perfect love casteth out fear,” to a
fashionable novel. But when, on the other hand, we take a text that
contains our subject, and expresses it clearly, we are prepared to
compose a sermon to the best advantage. The subject present in our own
mind runs through every part of the discourse, making it a living unity,
instead of a collection of loose and disordered fragments; while the
text, being always kept in view by the hearers as well as by the
speaker, leads all minds in the same direction, and gives divine
sanction to every word that is spoken. It is not without reason that the
people, whose tastes are nearly always right, though they may not be
able to give a philosophical explanation of them, complain of their
preacher when he does not “stick to his text.” It is right that he
should so adhere.

A man of genius may neglect this precaution, and still succeed, as he
would do, by mere intellectual force, were he to adopt any other course.
But ordinary men cannot, with safety, follow the example of Sydney
Smith. His vestry complained that he did not talk about the text he
took, and, that he might the more easily reform, they advised him to
divide his sermons as other preachers did. He promised to comply with
their request, and the next Sabbath began, “We will divide our discourse
this morning into three parts; in the first place we will go _up_ to our
text, in the second we will go _through_ it, and in the third we will go
FROM it.” It was generally allowed that he succeeded best on the last
division, but preachers who have not his genius had better omit it.

These rules in relation to the absolute sway of object, subject and
text, may appear harsh and rigid, but cannot be neglected with impunity.
A true discourse of any kind is the orderly development of some one
thought, with so much clearness, that it may ever afterward live as a
point of light in the memory; other ideas may cluster around it, but one
must reign supreme. If it fails in this particular, nothing else will
redeem it. Brilliancy of thought and illustration will be wasted, as a
sculptor’s art would be on a block of clay.

A man of profound genius once arose to preach before a great assemblage,
and every breath was hushed to listen. He spoke with power, and some of
his passages were full of thrilling eloquence. He poured forth beautiful
images and deep solemn thoughts, with the utmost profusion. Yet when he
took his seat a sense of utter disappointment filled the hearts of all
present. The sermon was confused. No subject could be traced that bound
it together, and made a point of union to which the memory might cling.
Had he not read his text no one could have guessed it. It was a most
impressive warning of the necessity of laying a foundation before
erecting a magnificent structure. Had he adhered to the thoughts
expressed in his text, which was one of the richest in the Scriptures,
his eloquence and power would not have been thrown away.

                              CHAPTER II.

The logical order of sermon preparation is, first, to gather the
materials of which it is composed; second, to select what is most
fitting, and arrange the whole into perfect order; third, to fix this in
the mind, thus making it available at the moment of use. These processes
are not necessarily separated in practice, but may be best considered in
the order indicated.

When we choose a subject for a sermon, and allow the mind to dwell upon
it, it becomes a centre of attraction, and naturally draws all kindred
ideas toward it. Old memories that have become dim in the lapse of time,
are slowly hunted out and grouped around the parent thought, and each
hour of study adds to the richness and variety of our stores. The
relations between different and apparently widely-separated things
become visible, just as new stars are seen when we gaze intently toward
them. Everything that the mind possesses is subjected to a rigid
scrutiny, and all that appears to bear any relation to the subject is
brought into view. A considerable period of time is usually required for
the completion of all this, and the longer it is continued the better,
provided the interest felt is not abated.

Such continuous reaches of thought form a principal element in the
superiority of one mind over another. Even the mightiest genius cannot,
at a single impulse, exhaust the ocean of truth that opens around every
object of man’s contemplation. And it is only by viewing a subject in
every aspect, that we can guard against superficial and one-sided
impressions. But the continued exertion and toil which this implies are
nearly always distasteful, and the majority of men can accomplish it
only by a stern resolve. This ability, whether acquired or natural, is
one of prime necessity, and the young minister, at the very first,
should learn to thoroughly investigate and finish every subject he
undertakes, and continue the habit during life. This will generally
determine the question of his success or failure, at least from an
intellectual point of view. Thought is a mighty architect, and if you
keep him fully employed, he will build up, with slow and measured
strokes, a gorgeous and enduring edifice on any subject within your
mental range. You may weary of his labor, and think the wall rises very
slowly, and will never be completed, but wait. The work will be finished
at last, and will be no ephemeral structure to be swept away by the
first storm, but will stand unshaken on the basis of eternal truth.

M. Bautain compares the accumulation of thought around a subject, to the
almost imperceptible development of organic life. Striking as is the
illustration, there is one marked point of dissimilarity. The growth of
thought is voluntary, and may be arrested at any stage. Even a cessation
of conscious effort is fatal. To prevent this, and keep the mind
employed until all its work is done, requires, with most persons, a
regular and formal system. Profound thinkers, who take up a subject, and
cannot leave it until it is traced into all its relations, and mastered
in every part, and who have at the same time the power of long
remembering the trains of thought that pass through their minds, may not
need an artificial method. But these are exceptions to the general rule.

We will give a method we have found useful for securing sermon
materials, and allow others to adopt it so far as it may prove
advantageous to them.

Ideas are not always kept equally in view. Sometimes we may see one with
great clearness, and after a little time lose it again, while another,
at first invisible, comes into sight. Each one should be secured when it
occurs. After the subject has been pondered for a sufficient length of
time, write all the thoughts that are suggested on it, taking no care
for the arrangement, but only putting down a word or brief sentence that
will recall the idea intended. After everything that presents itself has
thus been rendered permanent, the paper containing these items may be
put away, and the subject recommitted to the mind. As other ideas arise,
let them be recorded in the same way, and the process extended over days
together. Sometimes new images and conceptions will continue to float
into the mental horizon even for weeks. Most persons who have not tried
this simple process, will be surprised to find how many thoughts they
have on the commonest topic. If some of this gathered matter remains
vague and indefinite, it will only be necessary to give it more time,
more earnest thought, and all obscurity will vanish.

At last, there comes a consciousness that the mind’s power on that theme
is exhausted. If we also feel that we possess all the requisite
material, this part of our work is ended. But more frequently there will
be a sense of incompleteness, and we are driven to seek what we need

The next step is the obtaining of new facts. We have thus far dealt with
what the mind itself possesses, and have only sought to make that
previously-accumulated knowledge fully available. But when this stage is
reached, we hunger for more extended information. We read the works of
those who have treated on the themes we are discussing, converse with
well-informed persons, observe the world closely, and at last find the
very idea we want. We receive it with joy, and from thenceforth it
becomes a part of our being. We place the treasure on paper with other
items, and continue to search until we have all we desire. It often
happens that we do not find exactly the object of our search, but strike
on some chain that guides us to it through the subtile principles of
association. It is only the more welcome because we have thus traced it

We have on paper, at last, and often after much toil, a number of
confused, unarranged notes. The whole mass relates to the subject, but
much is unfitting, and all requires, by another process, to be cast into
order and harmony. The first step in this direction is to omit
everything not necessary to the purpose of the sermon. This is a matter
of great importance. It has been said that the principal difference
between a wise man and a fool is, that the one utters all his thoughts,
while the other gives only his best to the world. Nearly every man has,
at times, thoughts that would profit mankind, and if these are carefully
selected from the puerilities by which they may be surrounded, the
result cannot but be valuable. And if this cautious selection be needed
on general topics, it is still more imperative in the ministry of the
Word. The preacher must beware of giving anything repugnant to the
spirit of his mission. And the necessity of a purpose running through
his whole discourse, which we have before enlarged on, compels him to
strike out each item at variance with it. It is well to carefully read
over our scattered notes after the fervor of composition has subsided,
and erase all that are unfitting. Sometimes this will leave very few
ideas remaining, and we are obliged to search for others to complete the
sermon. This can be continued until we have gathered a sufficient mass
of clearly connected thoughts to accomplish the object in view.

Next follows the task of constructing the plan for the intended sermon.
Unless this is well done, success is impossible. The mightiest results
are obtained in oratory by the slow process of words, one following
another. Each one should bear forward the current of thought in the
right direction, and be a help to all that follow. And as, in extempore
speech, these words are given forth on the spur of the moment, it
becomes necessary to so arrange that the proper thought to be dissolved
into words, may always be presented to the mind at the right time.

In some cases this disposition of parts is quite easy. A course
indicated by the very nature of the subject will spring into view, and
relieve us of further embarrassment. But often this portion of our task
will require severe thought.

Many different kinds of plans have been specified by writers on
Homiletics. We will be contented with four divisions, based on the mode
of construction.

The first, we may call the narrative method. It is principally used when
some scripture history forms the basis of the sermon. In it the
different parts of the plan are arranged according to the order of time,
except when some particular reason, borrowed from the other methods,
intervenes. When there are few or none of these portions which give it a
composite character, the development proceeds with all the simplicity of
a story. Many beautiful sermons have been thus constructed.

A second method is the textual. Each part of the sermon rests on some of
the words or clauses of the text, and these suggest the order of its
unfolding, although they may be changed to make it correspond more
nearly to the narrative, or the logical methods. This kind of plan has
an obvious advantage in assisting the memory by suggesting each part at
the proper time.

The logical method is the third we will describe. A topic is taken, and
without reference to the order of time or the words of the text, is
unfolded as a proposition in Geometry—each thought being preliminary to
that which follows, and the whole ending in the demonstration of some
great truth, and the deduction of its legitimate corollaries. This
method is exceedingly valuable in many cases, if not pressed too far.

The last method, and the one employed more frequently than all the
others, is the divisional. It is the military arrangement, for in it the
whole sermon is organized like an army. All the detached items are
brought into related groups, each governed by a principal thought, and
these again are held in strict subordination to the supreme idea; or, to
change the figure, the entire mass resembles a tree, with its single
trunk, its branches subdivided into smaller ones, and all covered with a
beautiful robe of leaves, that rounds its form into graceful outlines,
even as the flow of words harmonizes our prepared thoughts, into the
unity of a living discourse.

A subject will many times arrange itself almost spontaneously into
several different parts, which thus form the proper divisions, and these
again may be easily analyzed into their subdivisions. Even when this is
not the case, we will see, as we examine our jottings, that a few of the
ideas stand out in especial prominence, and with a little close study of
relations and affinities, all the others may be made to group themselves
around these. The individual ideas which we put down on the first study
of the subject, usually form the subdivisions, and some generalization
of them the divisions.

It is well not to make the branches of a subject too numerous, or they
will introduce confusion, and fail to be remembered. From two to four
divisions, with two or three subdivisions under each, are in a majority
of cases better than a larger number. The tendency to multiply them
almost infinitely, which was formerly very prevalent, and is still too
common, receives a merciless, but well-deserved rebuke from Stephens, in
his “Preaching Required by the Times.” He is criticising a popular
“Preacher’s Manual”:

“These more than six hundred pages are devoted exclusively to the
technicalities of sermonizing. We almost perspire as we trace down the
tables of contents. Our eye is arrested by the ‘divisions’ of a
subject—and here we have no less than ‘nine kinds of divisions:’ the
‘Exegetical Division,’ the ‘Accommodational Division,’ the ‘Regular
Division,’ the ‘Interrogative Division,’ the ‘Observational Division,’
the ‘Propositional Division,’ etc.; and then come the ‘Rise from Species
to Genus,’ the ‘Descent from Genus to Species.’ And then again we have
exordiums: ‘Narrative Exordiums,’ ‘Expository Exordiums,’ ‘Argumentative
Exordiums,’ ‘Observational Exordiums,’ ‘Applicatory Exordiums,’ ‘Topical
Exordiums,’ and, alas for us! even ‘Extra-Topical Exordiums.’ One’s
thoughts turn away from a scene like this spontaneously to the Litany,
and query if there should not be a new prayer there.

“But this is not all. Here are about thirty stubborn pages to tell you
how to make a _comment_ on your text, and we have the ‘Eulogistic
Comment’ and the ‘Dislogistic Comment,’ (turn to your dictionary,
reader; we cannot stop in the race to define), ‘Argumentative Comment’
and the ‘Contemplative Comment,’ the ‘Hyperbolical Comment,’ the
‘Interrogative Comment,’ and the list tapers off at last with what it
ought to have begun and ended with, the ‘Expository Comment.’

“And even this is not all. Here is a section on the ‘Different kinds of
Address,’ and behold the astute analysis: ‘The Appellatory, the
Entreating, the Expostulatory, the Remedial, the Directive, the
Encouraging, the Consoling, the Elevating, the Alarming, the Tender, the
Indignant, the Abrupt.’

“This is the way that the art ‘Homiletic’ would teach us when and how to
be ‘Tender,’ ‘Indignant,’ ‘Consoling,’ and even ‘Abrupt!’ ‘Nonsense!’

“Yes, ‘nonsense!’ says any man of good sense in looking at this folly: a
folly which would be less lamentable if it could only be kept to the
homiletic professor’s chair, but which has still an almost
characteristic effect on pulpit eloquence—not only on the _form_ of the
sermon, but as a natural consequence on its very _animus_. This tireless
author gives all these outlines as _practical_ prescriptions. He even
presents them in a precise formula. We must yield to the temptation to
quote it. ‘There are,’ he says, ‘certain technical signs employed to
distinguish the several parts of a discourse. The first class consists
of the _principal divisions_, marked in Roman letters, thus: I., II.,
III., IV., etc. Next, the _subdivisions of the first class_, in figures,
1, 2, 3, etc. Under these, _subdivisions of the second class_, marked
with a curve on the right, as 1), 2), 3), etc. Then, _subdivisions of
the third class_, marked with two curves, as (1), (2), (3), etc.; and
under these, _subdivisions of the fourth class_, in crotchets, thus:
[1], [2], [3]. As—

                 “I. Principal division.
                        1. Subdivision of first class.
                       1). Subdivision of second class.
                      (1). Subdivision of third class.
                      [1]. Subdivision of fourth class.

“Mathematical this, certainly; some of Euclid’s problems are plainer. As
a ‘demonstration’ is obviously necessary, the author proceeds to give
the outline of a sermon on ‘_The Diversity of Ministerial Gifts_,’ from
the text ‘_Now there are Diversities of Gifts_,’ etc. He has but two
‘General Divisions,’ but makes up for their paucity by a generous
allowance of ‘Subdivisions.’ His ‘General Divisions’ are, I. _Exemplify
the Truth of the Text_. II. _Derive some Lessons of Instruction_,
etc.,—an arrangement simple and suitable enough for any popular
audience, if he were content with it, but under the first head he has
two ‘subdivisions,’ the first of which is reduced to _thirteen_
sub-subdivisions, and one of these thirteen again to _seven_
sub-sub-subdivisions! The second of his subdivisions again divided into
_eight_ sub-subdivisions, while the ‘homily’ (alas for the name!) is
completed by a merciless slashing of the second ‘general division’ into
no less than _eight_ subdivisions. The honest author, when he takes
breath at the end, seems to have some compunctious misgivings about this
infinitesimal mincing of a noble theme, and reminds the amazed student
that though the plan should be followed ‘in the composition of a
sermon,’ the ‘minor divisions’ can be concealed from view in preaching;
and he concludes the medley of nonsense with one sensible and very
timely admonition: ‘If a discourse contain a considerable number of
divisions and subdivisions,’ care should be taken to fill up the
respective parts with suitable matter, or it will be, indeed, a mere
_skeleton_—bones strung together—‘very many and very dry!’”

When we have accumulated our materials, stricken out all not needed, and
determined what shall be the character of our plan, the remainder of the
work must be left to individual taste and judgment. No rules can be
given that will meet every case. We might direct to put first what is
most easily comprehended, what is necessary for understanding other
portions, and also what is least likely to be disputed. But beyond these
obvious directions little aid can be given. The preacher must form his
own ideal, and work up to it. He may profitably examine sermon
skeletons, to learn what such forms should be. And when he hears good
discourses he may look beneath the burning words, and see what are the
merits of the frame-work on which they rest. This may render him
dissatisfied with his own achievements, but such dissatisfaction is the
best pledge of earnest effort for higher results.

A certain means of improvement is to bestow a great deal of time and
thought on the formation of plans, and make no disposition of any part
without a satisfactory reason. If this course is faithfully continued,
the power to arrange properly will be acquired, and firm, coherent, and
logical sermons be constructed.

There are certain characteristics that each sermon skeleton should
possess. It must indicate the nature of the discourse, and mark out each
of its steps with accuracy. Any want of definiteness is a fatal defect.
The orator must feel that he can rely absolutely on it for guidance to
the end of his discourse, or be in perpetual danger of embarrassment and
confusion. Each clause should express a distinct idea, and but one. If
it contain anything that is included under another head, we fall into
wearisome repetition, the great danger of extempore preachers. But if
discordant and disconnected thoughts are grouped together, we are liable
to forget some of them, and in returning, destroy the order of the

A brief plan is better than a long one. Often a single word will recall
an idea as perfectly as many sentences would do, and will burden the
memory less. We do not expect the draft of a house to equal the building
in size, but only to indicate the position and proportion of its
apartments. The plan cannot supply the thought, but, indicating what
exists in the mind, it shows how to bring it forth in regular order. It
is a pathway leading to a definite end, and like all roads, its crowning
merits are directness and smoothness. Without these, it will perplex and
hinder rather than aid. Every word in the plan should express, or assist
in expressing an idea, and be so firmly bound to it that the two cannot
be separated by any exigency of speech. It is perplexing in the heat of
discourse to have a prepared note lose the idea attached to it, and
become merely an empty word. But if the conception is clear, and the
most fitting term has been chosen to embody it, this cannot easily
happen. A familiar idea may be noted very briefly, while one that is new
requires to be more fully expressed. Most sermon skeletons may be
brought within the compass of a hundred words, and every part be clear
to the mind that conceived it, though, perhaps not comprehensible by any

It is not always best to present the divisions and subdivisions in
preaching. The congregation do not care how a sermon has been
constructed, provided it comes to them warm and pulsating with life. To
give the plan of a sermon before the sermon itself, is contrary to the
analogy of nature. She does not require us to look upon a grisly
skeleton before we can see a living body. It is no less objectionable to
name the parts and numbers of the sketch during the discourse, for bones
that project through the skin are very uncomely. The people will not
suffer, if we keep all the divisions to ourselves, for they are only
professional devices to render our share of the work easier. Much of the
proverbial “dryness” of sermons arises from displaying all the processes
we employ. A hotel that would have its beef killed and dressed before
its guests at dinner, would not be likely to retain its patronage.
Whenever we hear a minister state his plan in full, and take up
“firstly” and announce the subdivisions under it, we prepare our
patience for a severe test.

What the people need, are deep, strong appeals to their hearts, through
which shines the lightning of great truths, and the sword of God’s
spirit smites—not dry, dull divisions through which “it is easy to
follow the preacher”—a compliment often given, but always equivocal. A
tree is far more beautiful when covered with waving foliage, even if
some of the branches are hidden. Let the stream of eloquence sweep on in
an unbroken flow, bearing with it all hearts, but giving no indication
of the manner in which it is guided; or, better still, let it move with
the impetus of the cannon ball, overthrowing everything in its path, but
not proclaiming in advance the mark toward which it is flying!

We should go as far in the plan as we intend to do in the sermon, and
know just where to stop. Then we arise with confidence, for we are sure
that we have something to say; we know what it is; and most important of
all, we will know when it is finished. Most objections against extempore
preaching apply only to discourses that have no governing plan. When
this is firm and clear, there is no more danger of saying what we do not
intend, or of running into endless digressions, than if we wrote every
word. Indeed there is no better way to compose a written sermon, than by
first arranging a plan.

But it may be urged that this laborious preparation—this careful placing
of every thought—will require as much time as to write in full. It may
at first. The mind needs to be trained in the work, and it will be of
great advantage even as a mental discipline. But it grows easier with
practice, until the preparation of two sermons a week will not be felt
as a burden—will only afford grateful topics of thought while busied at
other labor. The direct toil of a mature preacher may not exceed an hour
per week.

The sermon is now clearly indicated. A plan has been prepared that fixes
each thought to be expressed in its proper place. There is no further
danger of the looseness and desultoriness that are not unfrequently
supposed to be peculiar to extemporaneous speech. It is possible, in the
moment of utterance, to leave the beaten track, and give expression to
any new ideas that may be suggested. But there is a sure foundation
laid—a course marked out that has been deeply premeditated, and which
gives certainty to all we say.

But it is not enough to have the plan on paper. As it came from the mind
at first in detached items, it must, in its completed state, be restored
to it again. Some ministers are not willing to take the trouble of
committing their skeletons to memory, but lay the paper before them, and
speak on one point until that is exhausted, and then look up the next,
which is treated in the same manner. This tends powerfully to impair the
unity of the discourse, which should he unbroken, and to make each note
the theme of a short, independent dissertation, rather than an integral
part of the whole. The minister reaches a point where he does not know
what is to come next, and on the brink of that gulf looks down at his
notes, and after a search, perhaps finds what he wants. Had this latter
thought existed in his mind, it would have been taken notice of in time,
and the close of the preceding one bent into harmony with it. The direct
address of the preacher to the people, which they value so much, is
interfered with in the same way, for his eye must rest, part of the
time, on his notes. The divisions also of the sermon are apt to be
mentioned, for it is hard for the tongue to refrain from pronouncing the
words that the eye is glancing over.

For all these reasons we believe that notes should seldom, if ever, be
used in the pulpit. They remedy none of the acknowledged defects of
extempore speaking, but add to them the coldness and formality of
reading. Those who cannot trust the mind alone had better go further,
and read their sermons with what earnestness they can command, and thus
secure the elegant finish supposed to be attainable only in written

But not all who use notes thus abuse them. Many employ them merely to
prevent possible forgetfulness, and perhaps do not look at them once
during the sermon. Yet it is still better to carry them in the pocket,
and thus avoid the appearance of servile dependence, while they would
still guard against such a misfortune as befel the Abbe Bautain, who, on
ascending the pulpit to preach before the French king and court, found
that he had forgotten the subject, plan and text!

By committing the plan to memory the mind takes possession of the whole
subject. It is brought into one view, and if any part is inconsistent
with the main discussion, the defect will be seen at once. If the plan
is properly constructed, the mind is then in the best possible condition
for speech. The object is fixed in the heart, and will fire it to
earnestness and zeal, and the subject is spread out before the mind’s
eye, while the two meet and mingle in such a way as to give life and
vitality to every part. This is just what is needed in true preaching.
The speaker’s soul, heated by the contemplation of his object,
penetrates every part of his theme, investing it with an interest that
compels attention. All the power he possesses is brought to bear
directly on the people. We can scarcely imagine a great reformer—one who
has shaken the nations—to have adopted any other method of address.
Think of Xavier or Luther with their notes spread out before them, while
addressing the multitudes who hung on their lips! The Presbyterian elder
who once prayed in the presence of his note-using pastor: “O Lord! teach
thy servants to speak from the heart to the heart, and not from a little
piece of paper, as the manner of some is!” was not far wrong.

It is well to commit the plan to memory a considerable time before
entering the pulpit. There is then less liability of forgetting some
portion of it, and it takes more complete possession of the mind. This
is less important when we preach on subjects with which we are perfectly
familiar, for then “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth
speaketh.” But we are not always so favored. Even if the salient
features are well known, some of the minor parts may require close
consideration. This cannot be so well bestowed until after the plan is
completely prepared, for before that time there is danger that much of
our attention may be given to some idea which may be ultimately
rejected, or changed with the plan. But when the plan is finished, each
idea has settled into its place. If obscurity still rests anywhere, it
will be seen at once, and the strength of the mind brought to bear on
that particular point. The impressions then made are easily retained,
because associated with a part of the prepared outline. Such deep
meditation on each division of the sermon can scarcely fail to make it
original in the truest sense of the term, and weave it together with
strong and massive thought.

After the plan is committed to memory, we can meditate on its different
portions, not only at the desk, but everywhere. As we walk from place to
place, or lie on our beds, or at any time find our minds free from other
engagements, we can ponder the ideas that cluster around our subject
until they grow perfectly familiar. Even when we are reading, brilliant
thoughts may spring up, or those we possessed before take stronger and
more definite shape.

This course we would strongly urge on the young speaker. If diligently
followed, it will be invaluable. Arrange the plan from which to speak as
clearly as may be, and memorize it; turn it over and over again; ponder
each idea and the manner of bringing it out; study the connection
between all the parts, until the whole, from beginning to end, appears
perfectly plain and simple. This method of preparation has been so fully
tested by experience, that its effectiveness is no longer questionable.

It is important to grasp the whole subject, as nearly as possible, in a
single idea—in the same way that the future tree is compressed in the
germ from which it springs. Then this one thought will suggest the
entire discourse to the speaker, and at its conclusion will be left
clear and positive on the hearer’s mind. It is true that some acute
auditors may outrun a loose speaker, arrange his scattered fragments,
supply his omissions, and arrive at the idea which has not yet formed
itself in his own mind. Such persons often commend preachers who are
incomprehensible to the majority of their audience. But it is not safe
to trust their applause for they are exceedingly apt to be in the

After the plan is memorized, it is often of advantage to sketch the
discourse in full; if this is done in long hand, there is danger that
its slowness will make it more of a word-study than what it is intended
to be—a test of ideas. Here short hand is valuable; and its use in this
manner will at once detect anything that may be wrong in the plan, for
if all is well arranged there need be no pause in the most rapid
composition. If we are able at one effort to throw the whole into a
dress of words, we can be confident that with the additional stimulus
supplied by the presence of a congregation, it will be easy to do the
same again. There should be no attempt, at the time of speaking, to
recall the terms used in writing, but our command of language is usually
improved by having so lately used many of the terms we will need again.
Frequently there are fine passages in the sermons thus struck off at
white heat which we would not willingly forget, yet it is better to make
no effort to remember them, for we are almost certain to rise even
higher in the excitement of speech.

Those who cannot write at a speed approaching that of the tongue, and
who wish a little more assistance than is furnished by the plan, can
make a brief sketch of it—a compact and intelligible model of the whole
subject. A discourse that requires an hour in delivery may be compressed
into a wonderfully small compass, without a material thought being
omitted or obscurely indicated. Such a sketch differs from the plan in
clearly expressing all the ideas that underlie the discourse, while the
latter would be unintelligible to any but the writer. The one is only a
few marks thrown out into the field of thought, by which an intended
pathway is indicated; the other is an exceedingly brief view of the
thoughts themselves, without adornment or verbiage. Some speakers who
might feel insecure in trusting the notes and hints of the plan, would
feel free to enlarge on a statement of their thoughts, so brief as to
require only two or three minutes for reading. But this is only an
expedient, and need not be adopted by those who have confidence in their
trained and cultivated powers.

The method of committing to memory a skeleton for the purpose of
securing our accumulations, is widely different from the systems of
Mnemonics that were once so current. Ideas are linked together by
natural, not artificial associations. It is the grasping of one thought
that points to another, or dissolves, as we gaze upon it, into minuter
ones, and is, in most instances, based upon that rigid analysis which
cannot be dispensed with even by those who would think exactly. All who
write their sermons would do well to adopt it. Strict analysis and broad
generalization are the foundation of all science, and if the preacher
builds upon them the world of spiritual truth will yield him its

After a plan has been fully prepared it may easily be preserved for
future use, by being copied into a book kept for the purpose, or, what
is more convenient in practice, folded into an envelope, with the
subject written on the back. By the latter means a large number may be
preserved in such form as to be readily consulted. These can be improved
as our knowledge increases, so as to be, at any time, the complete
expression of our ability on the theme treated of.

                              CHAPTER III.

It is an anxious moment when, after having completed his preparation,
the preacher awaits the time for beginning his intellectual battle. Men
who are physically brave often tremble in this emergency. The shame of
failure appears worse than death itself, and as the soldier feels more
of cold and shrinking terror while listening for the peal of the first
gun, than when the conflict deepens into blood around him, so the
speaker suffers more in this moment of expectancy than in any that comes
after. He sees the danger in its full magnitude without the inspiration
that attends it. Yet he must remain calm and collected, for unless he is
master of himself, he cannot expect to rule the multitude before him. He
must keep his material well in hand, that it may be used at the proper
time, although it is not best to be continually conning over what he has
to say. The latter would destroy the freshness of his matter, and bring
him to the decisive test weary and jaded. He only needs to be assured
that his thoughts are within reach.

It is very seldom possible to banish all fear, and it is to the
speaker’s advantage that he cannot. His timidity arises from several
causes, which differ widely in the effects they produce. A conscious
want of preparation is one of the most distressing of these. When this
proceeds from willful neglect no pity need be felt, although the penalty
should be severe. If the speaker’s object is only to win reputation—to
pander to his own vanity—he will feel more terrified than if his motive
were worthy. Such is often the position of the uncalled minister. He can
have no help from on high, and all his prayers for divine assistance are
a mere mockery. But if we speak because we dare not refrain, a mighty
point is gained, for then failure is no reproach. And the less of
earthly pride or ambition mingles with our motives, the more completely
can we rely on the help of the Spirit.

Another cause of fear is less unworthy. The glorious work in which we
are engaged may suffer from our insufficiency; for, while God will bless
the truth when given in its own beauty and power, there is still scope
enough for all the vigor of intellect, and the strongest preacher feels
the responsibility of rightly using his powers resting heavily upon him.

A general dread, that cannot be analyzed or accounted for, is perhaps
more keenly felt than any other. Persons who have never spoken sometimes
make light of it, but no one will ever do so who has experienced it. The
soldier, who has never witnessed a battle, or felt the air throb with
the explosion of cannon, or heard the awful cries of the wounded, is
often a great braggart, while “the scarred veteran of a hundred fights”
never speaks of the carnival of blood without shuddering, and would be
the last, but for the call of duty, to brave the danger he knows so
well. A few speakers never feel such fear, but it is because they do not
know what true speaking is. They have never felt the full tide of
inspiration that sometimes lifts the orator far above his ordinary
conceptions. They only come forward to relieve themselves of the
interminable stream of twaddle that wells spontaneously to their lips,
and can well be spared the pangs that precede the birth of a profound
and living discourse.

This kind of fear belongs to oratory of any character, but especially to
that which deals with sacred themes. It resembles the awe felt on the
eve of all great enterprises, and when excessive, as it is in some
highly gifted and sensitive minds, it constitutes an absolute bar to
public speech. But in most cases it is a source of inspiration rather
than of repression.

There is a strange sensation often experienced in the presence of an
audience before speaking. It may proceed from the united electric
influence of the many eyes that are turned upon the speaker, especially
if he catches their gaze. It may enchain him and leave him powerless,
unless he rises superior to it, and, throwing it backward to its source,
makes it the medium of his most subtile conquests. Most speakers have
felt this in a nameless thrill, a real something, pervading the
atmosphere, tangible, evanescent, indescribable. All writers have borne
testimony to the effect of a speaker’s glance in impressing an audience.
Why should not their eyes have a reciprocal power?

By dwelling on the object for which we speak, and endeavoring to realize
its full importance, we will in a measure lose sight of the danger to be
incurred, and our minds be more likely to remain in a calm and tranquil
state. But no resource is equal to the sovereign one of prayer. The Lord
will remember his servants when they are laboring in his cause, and
grant a divine influence to prepare them for the work.

No change in the plan should be made just before speaking, for it will
almost inevitably produce confusion. Yet this error is very difficult to
avoid. The mind has a natural tendency to be going over the same ground,
revising and testing every point, and is liable to make changes, the
consequences of which cannot at once be foreseen. After all necessary
preparation has been made, we should wait the result quietly and
hopefully. Over-study is possible, and when accompanied by great
solicitude, is a sure means of driving away all interest from the
subject. If the eye be fixed too long upon one object, with a steadfast
gaze, it will be unable to see at all. So the mind, if confined to one
point for a great period, will lose its vivacity, and grow weary.
Nothing can compensate for the want of elasticity and vigor in the act
of delivery. It is not enough to enumerate a dry list of particulars,
but we must enter into their spirit with the deepest interest. This
cannot be counterfeited. To clearly arrange, and weigh every thought
that belongs to the subject, lay it aside until the time for speech, and
then enter upon it with only such a momentary glance as will assure us
that all is right, is doubtless the method to make our strength fully
available. To await the decisive moment with calm self-confidence, is
very difficult, especially for beginners, but the ability to do it may
be acquired by judicious practice and firm resolution. M. Bautain, whose
experience was very extensive, says that he has sometimes felt so
confident of his preparation, as to fall asleep while waiting to be
summoned to the pulpit!

But those who misimprove the last moments by too much thought, form the
smallest class. Many, through mere indolence, permit the finer lines of
the future discourse, that have been traced with so much care, to fade
out. This not unfrequently happens to those who preach a second or third
time on the same subject. Because they have succeeded once, they imagine
that the same success is always at command. This is a hurtful, though
natural error. It is not enough to have the material for a sermon where
it may be collected by a conscious and prolonged effort, but it must be
in the foreground. There is no time, in the moment of delivery, for
reviving half obliterated lines of memory.

We once witnessed an instance of most unexpected failure from this
cause. The speaker was much engrossed with other duties until the
appointed hour, and then, having no leisure for preparation, he selected
a sermon he had preached shortly before, and with the general course of
which he was no doubt familiar. Yet when he endeavored to produce his
thoughts they were not ready. He became embarrassed, and was finally
compelled to take his seat in the midst of his intended discourse.

It is well, during the last interval, to care for the strength of the
body, for its condition will influence all the manifestations of mind.
It is said that the pearl-diver, before venturing into the depths of the
sea, always spends a few moments in deep breathing, and other bodily
preparation. In the excitement of speech, the whirl and hurricane of
emotion, it is necessary that our physical condition should be such as
to bear all the tension put upon it. Mental excitement wears down the
body faster than muscular labor. To meet all its demands we must reserve
our strength for the time it is needed; for any illness will operate as
a direct reduction of the orator’s power, and he must not hope, under
its influence, to realize full success.

Holyoake makes the following pertinent observations in reference to this

“Perhaps the lowest quality of the art of oratory, but one on many
occasions of the _first importance_, is a certain robust and radiant
physical health; great volumes of animal heat. In the cold thinness of a
morning audience, mere energy and mellowness is inestimable; wisdom and
learning would be harsh and unwelcome compared with a substantial man,
who is quite a house-warming.”

The picture painted in romances of a speaker with attenuated form, and
trembling step, scarcely able to sustain his own weight as he ascends
the platform, but who, the moment he opens his lips, becomes
transfigured in the blaze of eloquence, is more poetical than natural.
Let the instrument be in perfect tune, and then can the hand of genius
evoke from it sweet and thrilling music.

As the time for speaking approaches every fatiguing exertion should be

In the “Rudiments of Public Speaking,” Holyoake gives a passage from his
own experience which well illustrates this:

“One Saturday I walked from Sheffield to Huddersfield to deliver on the
Sunday two anniversary lectures. It was my first appearance there, and I
was ambitious to acquit myself well. But in the morning I was utterly
unable to do more than talk half inaudibly and quite incoherently. In
the evening I was tolerable, but my voice was weak. My annoyance was
excessive. I was a paradox to myself. My power seemed to come and go by
some eccentric law of its own. I did not find out till years after that
the utter exhaustion of my strength had exhausted the powers of speech
and thought, and that entire repose instead of entire fatigue should
have been the preparation for public speaking.”

Absolute rest is not generally advisable, for then the preacher would
enter the pulpit with languid mind and slowly beating pulse, and would
require some time to overcome this state. A brisk walk, when the health
is good, will invigorate and refresh all his faculties, and in part
prevent the feebleness and faintness of a listless introduction, by
enabling him to grasp the whole subject at once, and launch right into
the heart of it. Should any one doubt the power of exercise to produce
this effect, let him, when perplexed with difficult questions in his
study, start out over fields and hills, and review the matter in the
open air. If the minister cannot secure this kind of exercise he may
easily find a substitute. If alone, he can pace back and forth, and
swing his arms, until the circulation becomes brisk, and pours a stream
of arterial blood to the brain that will supply all its demands.

Another simple exercise will often prove of great advantage. It is well
known that many ministers injure themselves by speaking too much from
the throat. This results from improper breathing—from elevating the
upper part of the chest instead of pressing the abdomen downward and
outward, causing the air to pass through the whole length of the lungs.
To breathe properly is always important, and does much to prevent chest
and throat diseases. But it is worthy of the most careful attention on
the part of the speaker, for by it alone can he attain full compass and
range of voice. But in animated extempore speech there is no time to
think of the voice at all, and the only method possible is to make the
right way so habitual that it will be adopted instinctively. This will
be greatly promoted if, just before beginning to speak, we will breathe
deeply a number of times, inflating the lungs completely to their

At this last hour, the speaker must not dwell upon the dangers he is
about to encounter, or picture the desirability of escape from them. He
has taken every precaution and made every preparation. Nothing remains
for him but to put his trust in God, and bravely do his duty.

The order of opening services is different in the different churches,
but in all they are of great advantage to the minister by overcoming
excessive timidity, and giving an easy introduction to the audience. The
hymn, or psalm, is to be read, which is not a very embarrassing task,
and in doing it he becomes familiar with the sound of his own voice. Yet
it requires many rare qualities to read well. Good sense and modesty are
essential. The theatric method, sometimes admired, exaggerating every
tone, and performing strange acrobatic feats of sound, tends to dispel
the solemn awe and reverence that should gather around the sanctuary.
Let the hymn be read quietly, with room for rise as well as fall, and
all be perfectly natural and unaffected. The sentiment expressed by the
voice should correspond with the meaning of the words. Even in this
preliminary exercise, it is possible to strike a chord that will vibrate
in unison through the hearts of preacher and people.

Prayer is still more important. When it is read, the same remarks apply
as to the reading of the hymns. Each word should be made the echo of an
inward feeling. But in most American churches prayer is extempore. The
minister addresses heaven in his own words, on behalf of himself and
congregation. The golden rule here is to pray really to God. That
minister had no reason to feel flattered, whose prayer was commended as
the most eloquent ever offered to a Boston congregation! The mass of
humanity before us should only be thought of, in order to express their
wants, and to intercede for them at a throne of grace. The simpler our
language the better it is fitted for this purpose. Gaudy rhetoric, and
even the charm of melodious words, if in the slightest degree sought
for, is out of place. The only praise that should be desired from a
congregation, in regard to their pastor’s prayers, is the acknowledgment
that their holy yearnings and aspirations, as well as their needs, have
been clearly expressed. All beyond this is disgusting.

Neither should fervid utterance be strained after. If deep emotions
arise, and express themselves in the voice, it is well. But without
these, mere loudness of tone will be empty noise; the prayer will be the
hardest part of the service; and complex metaphors and profuse poetical
quotations will afford very inadequate relief. But if the heart be full
it is easy to pray, and this renders all the remainder of the service
easier. A bond of true spiritual sympathy unites the preacher with all
the good in his congregation, and as he rises to speak, their prayers
are given for his success.

                              CHAPTER IV.

The sermon is the culmination of ministerial labor. Other duties are
important, but preaching is highest of all. Example, conversation,
private influence, only prepare the way for the great Sabbath work. In
it the minister can speak to the assembled multitude with the freedom
and boldness of truth. The believer receives deeper insight into God’s
ways, and directions for his own walk. The careless listen while he
denounces impending wrath and shows the only means of escape. He wields
tremendous power, and if sincere and unselfish, he cannot fail to win
stars for his heavenly crown.

We will consider the sermon under the three parts of introduction,
discussion and conclusion. It is often divided more minutely, but these
will be sufficient for our purpose.

Nothing is harder to frame than a good introduction. It is
indispensable, for, however we may approach our subject there is a first
moment when silence is broken and our thoughts introduced. The rustle of
closing hymn books and the subsiding murmur of the audience, tell the
speaker that the time has come. If he be sensitive, or has never spoken
before, his pulse beats fast, his face flushes, an indescribable feeling
of faintness and fear thrills every nerve. He advances to the pulpit,
and reads from the Bible the words that are to be the warrant for his
utterances, and breathing a silent prayer for help, opens his lips, and
hears the tremulous echo of his own voice.

There is a vast difference between reciting and extemporizing at first,
and the advantage is all on the side of recitation. Every word is in its
proper place, and the speaker is perfectly calm and self-confident. He
is sure that his memory will not fail in the opening, and will usually
throw his whole power into it, causing his voice to ring clear and loud
over the house. But it is different with the extempore speaker. He is
sure of nothing, and the weight of the whole speech is heavy on his
mind. He is glancing ahead, striving to forecast the coming sentences,
as well as caring for those gliding over the tongue, and his first
expressions may be feeble and ungraceful. Yet this display of modesty
and timidity will conciliate the audience and secure their good will. We
can scarcely fail to distinguish an extemporized discourse from a
recited one, by the difference in the introduction alone.

Some persons commit the opening passages of the sermon, to avoid the
pain and hesitancy of an unstudied beginning. But while this may
accomplish the immediate object, it is apt to be at the expense of the
remaining part of the discourse. The mind cannot pass easily from
recitation to extemporization, and the voice, being too freely used at
first, loses its power. The hearers having listened to highly polished
language, cannot so well relish the plain words that follow, and the
whole sermon, which, like the condor, may have pitched from Alpine
summits, falls fast and far until the lowest level is reached. A written
introduction may be modest and unpretending, but unless it is exactly
like unstudied speech there will be a painful transition.

A favorite method of avoiding these difficulties is to make no formal
introduction, but plunge at once into the heart of the subject.
Occasionally, this can be done to good advantage, and tends to prevent a
monotonous uniformity. But as a rule it is better to prepare the minds
of our hearers by all needed observations, and gradually lead them to
our subject.

The introduction should not be left to the chance of the moment. It
requires more careful study than any other part of the sermon, for the
tide of speech, which may afterward bear us over many barriers, is not
then in full flow. But the preparation should be general, and not extend
to the words. A first sentence may be forecast, but much beyond this
will do harm. For the introduction should not be the part of the
discourse longest remembered. It would be better to omit it, than to
have the attention distracted from the main subject. For this reason
nothing far-fetched or hard to be understood should be admitted. But,
beginning with some familiar thought closely connected with the text, it
should remove difficulties and open the whole subject for discussion.

Much is gained if, at the outset, we can arrest the attention and win
the sympathy of our hearers. They come together from many different
employments, with thoughts fixed on various objects, and it is a
difficult task to remove these distracting influences and cause the
assembly to dwell with intense interest on one subject. Sometimes a
startling proposition will accomplish this end. Earnestness in the
speaker tends powerfully toward it. But sameness must be carefully
avoided. If every sermon is carried through an unvarying number of
always-expressed divisions and subdivisions, the hearer knows what is
coming, and loses all curiosity. We have heard of a minister who made it
a rule to consider the nature, reason and manner of everything he spoke
of. He would ask the questions: “What is it? Why is it? How is it?” The
eloquence of Paul would not many times have redeemed such an

A considerable degree of inattention is to be expected in every audience
at first, and the speaker’s opening words may be unheard by many and
unheeded by all. It is useless to attempt by violent means and loudness
of voice to awaken them from their indifference. The preacher may safely
bide his time. If his words have weight and his manner indicate
confidence, one by one will listen, until that electric thrill of
sympathy, impossible to describe, but which can be felt as easily as an
accord in music, will vibrate through the hearts of all present. Then
the orator’s power is fully developed, and it is delightful to use it.
This silent, pulsating interest is more to be desired than vehement
applause, for it cannot be counterfeited, and indicates that the hearts
of the assemblage have been reached, and fused by the fires of
eloquence, and are ready to be molded into any desired form. Happy the
minister who has this experience, for if his own heart is enlightened by
the Holy Spirit, he can stamp on the awakened multitude the seal of
undying truth.

The introduction should be plain, simple and direct. But its very
simplicity renders it more difficult to construct. Preachers who are
great in almost everything else, often fail by making their
introductions too complicated, thus defeating their own purpose as
surely as the engineer who gives his road such steep grades, that no
train can pass over it. Others deliver a string of platitudes that no
one wishes to hear, and the audience grows restive at the very

When from these or other causes, the sermon is misbegun, the
consequences are likely to be serious. The thought is forced home on the
speaker, with icy weight, that he is failing, and this conviction
paralyzes all his faculties. He talks on, but grows more and more
embarrassed. Incoherent sentences drop from him, requiring painful
explanation to prevent them from degenerating into perfect nonsense. The
outline of his plan dissolves into mist. The points he intended to make,
and thought strong and important, now appear very trivial. He blunders
on with little hope ahead. The room may grow dark before him, and in the
excess of his discomfort, he ardently longs for the time when he can
close without absolute disgrace. But, alas! the end seems far off. In
vain he searches for some avenue of escape. There is none. His throat
becomes dry and parched, and the command of his voice is lost. The
audience grow restive, for they are tortured, as well as the speaker,
and if he were malicious he might find some alleviation in this. But he
has no time to think of it, or if he does, it reacts on himself. No one
can help him. At last, in sheer desperation, he cuts the Gordian knot,
and stops—perhaps seizing some swelling sentence, and hurling it as a
farewell volley at the audience—or speaks of the eternal rest, which no
doubt appears very blissful in comparison with his own unrest—then sits
down bathed in sweat, and feeling that he is disgraced forever! If he is
very weak or foolish, he resolves that he will never speak again without
manuscript, or, if wiser, that he will not only understand his
discourse, but how to begin it.

The passage from the introduction to the discussion should be gradual.
To make the transition smoothly, and strike the subject just at the
right point, continuing the interest that may have been previously
excited, is a most important achievement. A strong, definite purpose
materially assists in this, for it dwells equally in all parts of the
sermon. The object is clearly in view, and we go right up to it with no
wasted words, while the people cheerfully submit to our guidance because
they see that we have an aim before us. But if this be absent we may
steer around our subject, and are never quite ready to enter upon it,
even if we are not wrecked at the outset. A careful preparation of the
plan will do much to prevent this, but it is not enough, for the words
and phrases are not to be prepared. With every precaution, the best of
speakers may fail at this point, and the more brilliant the introduction
the more marked will the failure be. When this danger is safely passed,
he is in the open sea, and the triumphs of eloquence are before him.

There is great pleasure in speaking well. An assembly hanging on the
words, and thinking the thoughts of a single man, gives to him the most
subtile kind of flattery, and he needs to beware how he yields to its
influence, or his fall will be speedy and disastrous. The triumphs of
oratory are very fascinating. The ability to sway our fellow men at
will—to bind them with the strong chain of our thought, and make them
willing captives—produces a delirious and intoxicating sense of power.
But this is very transient, and unless taken advantage of at the moment,
to work some enduring result, it fades, like the beautiful cloud-work of
morning, before the rising sun. Even during the continuance of a sermon
it is hard to maintain the influence of a happy moment. Persons not
unfrequently give utterance to some great and noble thought, that echoes
in the hearts of the audience, and the nameless thrill of eloquence is
felt, but some irrelevant phrase, or commonplace sentiment dissolves all
the charm. To avoid this, the whole discourse must be of a piece, and
rise in power until the object is accomplished.

Diffuseness is often supposed to be an essential quality of
extemporaneous speech. It is not such, though many speakers do fall into
it. The reason of this fault is that they are not content to place the
subject in a strong light by one forcible and luminous expression, but
say nearly what they mean, and continue their efforts until they are
satisfied. They furnish no clear view of anything, but give a sort of
twilight intimation of their idea. But serious as this fault is, it may
easily be overcome. Exquisite finish, and elaborate arrangement are not
to be expected in off-hand speech, but we may give force and true
shading to every idea just as well as in writing.

To express exactly what we mean at the first effort, is one of the
greatest beauties of a spoken style. The hearer is filled with grateful
surprise when some new and living idea is placed before him, clothed in
a single word or sentence. But a diffuse speaker gives so many
premonitions of his thought, that the audience comprehend it before he
is half through the discussion, and are forced to await his ending, in
listless weariness. He never receives credit for an original idea,
because his advances toward it call up the same thought in the mind of
his hearers, and when formally presented it has lost all novelty, and
seems to be trite.

The same study that will impart the power of condensation in writing
will do it in speech, for it can only be obtained in either by earnest,
persevering effort. Frequently forecast what to say, and drive it into
the smallest possible number of vivid, expressive words; then, without
memorizing the language, reproduce the same thought briefly as possible
in the hurry of speech. It may be less compact than the studied
production, but if so, let the effort be repeated with the knowledge of
where the defect is, and this continued until it can be cast into bold,
well-defined outlines at a single impulse. This process, often repeated,
will give the ability to condense, but in order to exercise it
successfully another quality is needed. We must be able to resist the
seduction of fine language. No sentence should be introduced because it
glitters or sparkles, for a single unnecessary word that requires others
to explain its use, may damage a whole sermon. Let the best words be
chosen with reference to beauty and impressiveness as well as strict
appropriateness, but the latter must never be sacrificed. The danger of
showy language in speech is greater than in a written composition, for
if the writer be drawn too far away, he can go back and begin again,
while the speaker has only one trial. If beauties lie in his way all the
better, but he must never leave his path to search for them.

Bishop Simpson’s lecture on “The Future of our Country,” was a model of
compactness. Every gaudy ornament was discarded, and short, simple
sentences conveyed ideas that would have furnished a florid speaker with
inexhaustible material. The whole discourse was radiant with true
beauty—the beauty of thought shining through the drapery of words, and
each idea, unweakened by any pause of expectation, struck the mind as
new truth, or the echo of what was felt, but never so well expressed

We have seen directions for “expanding thought,” and have heard young
speakers admire the ease and skill with which it was done. But thoughts
are not like medicines which require dilution in order to be more
certain in their effects, and more readily taken. It is far better to
give the essence of an idea, and go on to something else. If thoughts
are too few, it is more profitable to dig and delve for others, than to
attenuate and stretch what we have. We need deep, burning, throbbing
conceptions that will live without artificial aid.

A similar error exists in regard to the kind of language best adapted to
oratory. High-sounding epithets and latinized words are sometimes
supposed to be the proper dress of eloquence. These might give an
impression of our learning or wisdom to an ignorant audience, but could
not strike the chords of living sympathy that link all hearts together.
Language is only available as a medium, so far as hearer and speaker
understand it in common. If we use a term the congregation have seldom
heard, even if they can arrive at its meaning, it will lose all its
force whilst they are striving to understand it. But one of the homely
Saxon words that dwell on the lips of the people, will unlade its
meaning in the heart as soon as its sound strikes the ear. For while
uncommon words erect a barrier around thought, familiar ones are perhaps
not noticed at all, leaving the feeling to strike directly to its mark.

The only reason why Saxon derivatives are so powerful, is because they
are usually the words of every-day life. But the test of usefulness is
not in etymology. If terms of Latin or French origin have passed into
the life of the people, they will serve the highest purpose of the
orator. Of coarse, all debased and slang words should be rejected. We do
not plead for “the familiarity that breeds contempt.” The two great
requisites in the use of words are, that they should exactly express our
idea, and be familiar to the audience. Melody and association should not
be despised, but they are secondary.

Every sermon should have strong points upon which especial reliance is
placed. A general has his choice battalions reserved to pierce the
enemy’s line at the decisive moment, and win the battle. It is important
to know how to place these reserved thoughts, that all their weight may
be felt.

A crisis occurs in nearly every sermon—a moment when a strong argument
or a fervent appeal will produce the result intended, or when failure
becomes inevitable—just as a vigorous charge, or the arrival of
reinforcements, will turn the scale of battle, when the combatants grow
weary and dispirited. The speaker, knowing what his object is, should so
dispose his forces as to drive steadily toward it, and when within
reach, put forth all his power in one mighty effort, achieving the
result for which the whole speech was intended. If neglected, such
chances seldom return, and an hour’s talk may fail to accomplish as much
as one good burning sentence thrown in at the right time. This should be
foreseen, and the idea, which we know to be the key of our discourse,
carefully prepared—in thought, not word.

Quotations, either in prose or poetry, may be often used to good
advantage, but should be short, appropriate and secondary. The grand
effect of an extempore discourse must not depend on a borrowed passage,
or its character will be changed, and its originality lost.

We have all along taken it for granted that deep thought underlies the
whole discourse. Without this, a sermon or any serious address deserves
no success. Under some circumstances nothing is expected but sound to
tickle the ear. This is play, while the eloquence of the pulpit is
solemn work. The very fact that the speaker has a solid and worthy
foundation, gives him confidence. He knows that if his words are not
ringing music, he will still have a claim on the attention of his

It is not necessary that our thoughts should extend far beyond the
depths of the common mind, for the most weighty truths lie nearest to
the surface, and within the reach of all. But most men do not dwell long
enough on one subject to understand even its obvious features, and when
these are fully mastered and presented in striking form, it is like a
new revelation. A good illustration of this is found in the sublimity
that Kitto imparts to the journeyings of the Israelites. Very few new
facts are stated, but all are so arranged and vivified by a thoughtful
mind, that the subject grows into new meaning. Let the preacher, by
speaking extempore, save his time for investigation and study, and his
sermons will soon have a charm beyond any jingling combination of words.

Is the minister, as he stands before a congregation with their eyes
fixed upon him, to expect them to be overwhelmed by his eloquence? Such
a result is possible, but is seldom attained, especially when sought
for. If persons attempt what is beyond their power, the only result will
be to render themselves ridiculous. But good sense and solid usefulness
are within the reach of all. Any man who studies a subject till he knows
more about it than others do, can interest them in a fireside
explanation, if they care for the matter at all. He communicates his
facts in a plain style and they understand him. Many persons will sit
delighted till midnight to hear a man converse, but will go to sleep if
he address them half an hour in public. In the first case he talks, and
is simple and unaffected; in the other he speaks, and uses a style
stiffened up for the occasion. When Henry Clay was asked how he became
so eloquent, he said he knew nothing about it; when he commenced an
address he had only the desire to speak what he had prepared (not
committed), and adhered to this until he was enwrapped in his subject
and carried away, he knew not how. This is a characteristic of the
modern, as opposed to the ancient, school of eloquence. The latter
memorized, while our greatest speakers only arrange, and speak in a
plain, business style, until hurried by the passion of the moment into
bolder flights. If this does not happen, they still give a good and
instructive speech.

These few considerations may be of use when the speaker stands in the
pulpit, but he must rely on his own tact for the management of details.
Closely observing the condition of the audience, taking advantage of
every favoring circumstance, he moves steadily towards his object. With
an unobstructed road before him, which he has traveled in thought until
it is familiar, he will advance with ease and certainty. As he gazes
into the intent faces around, new ideas arise, and, if fitting, are
woven into what was previously prepared, often with thrilling effect.
Each emotion kindled by sympathy will embody itself in words that touch
the heart as nothing prepared could do, and each moment his own
conviction sinks deeper in the hearts of his hearers.

There are three principal ways of concluding a sermon. The first, and
most graceful, is to condense a clear view of the whole argument, and
leave the audience with the comprehensive impression thus made. This is
admirably adapted to discourses the principal object of which is to
convince the understanding. To throw the whole sweep of the argument,
every point of which has been enforced, into a few telling, easily
remembered sentences, will go far to make the impression permanent.

The old plan of closing with an exhortation, is perhaps the most
generally beneficial. An application is the same thing in substance,
only a little less pungent and personal. In it the whole sermon is made
to bear on the duty of the moment. It should be closely connected with
what went before; for a general exhortation, fitting the end of every
sermon, cannot well apply to any. All the sermon should be gathered up,
as it were, and hurled as a solid mass into the hearts and consciences
of those whom we wish to affect, thus making it a real “thrust,” of
which the exhortation is the barbed point. It should be short, and no
new matter introduced at the time the audience are expecting the end.

The third method is to break off when the last item is finished. If the
lines of the argument are few and simple, or so strong that they cannot
fail to be remembered, there is no need to recapitulate them. And if the
exhortation has kept pace with the progress of the sermon, there is no
place for it at the close. If both these coincide, a formal conclusion
would be a superfluity. It is only necessary to finish the development
of the plan, care being taken that the last idea discussed shall be one
of dignity and importance. This is simply stopping when done, and is
certainly an easy method of closing, though, in practice, too often

                               CHAPTER V.

When we have concluded a fervent discourse, especially if successful,
there comes a feeling of inexpressible relief. For the burden of a
speech accumulates on the mind, from the time the subject is chosen,
until it grows almost intolerable. When we begin to speak all our powers
are called into play, and exerted to the limit of their capacity. The
excitement of the conflict hurries us on, and although we may not
realize the gigantic exertions we put forth, yet when we pause, with the
victory won, the sense of relief and security is exceedingly delightful.
Yet we must not indulge too deeply in the self-gratulation so natural at
such a moment. If we have conquered, it has been in God’s name, not our
own, and the first thing to be done is to offer him thanks for our
preservation. This is but the complement of the prayers made at the
beginning of the service, for if we ask help with fear and trembling,
before the real perils of speech begin, it would be very wrong, in the
hour of triumph, to cease to remember the arm upon which we leaned. But
by pouring out our thankfulness to God, we are at the same time
preserved from pride and undue exaltation, and encouraged to depend upon
Him more fully the next time we speak.

If the effort has been an earnest one, both mind and body need rest.
There are speakers who profess to feel no fatigue after an hour’s labor,
but these seldom occupy a place in the first class. If the soul has
really been engaged, and all the powers of mind and body bent to the
accomplishment of a great object, relaxation must follow, and often a
sense of utter prostration. It is well, if possible, to abandon
ones-self to the luxury of rest—that utter repose so sweet after severe
labor. Even social intercourse should be avoided. A short sleep, even if
only for a few minutes, will afford great relief, and it is much to be
regretted that circumstances so often interfere with the enjoyment of
such a luxury. After the morning service, especially if the minister has
to preach again in the evening, all labor, even in the Sabbath-school,
should be avoided, although, before preaching, such toil will only form
a grateful introduction to the duties of the day. No practice is more
pernicious than that of inviting the minister to meet company, at
dinner-parties or elsewhere, immediately after service. This is
objectionable for two reasons; the conversation at such parties seldom
accords with the sanctity of the Sabbath, and if unexceptionable in this
respect, a continued tax is made upon the already exhausted brain—a tax
greater during such a state of relaxation and languor, than ten-fold the
labor would be at another period. Let the preacher, when he can, retire
to the privacy of his own home, and there enjoy the freedom of
untrammelled rest.

It is well to ponder closely the lessons derived from each new
experience in speaking. The minister can never exactly measure his own
success, and may often lament as a failure that effort which has
accomplished great good. He has in his mind an ideal of excellence by
which he estimates his sermons. If this be placed very low, he may
succeed in coming up to it, or even pass beyond it, without
accomplishing anything worthy of praise. But in such a case he is apt to
be well satisfied with the result. And often the sermons with which we
are least pleased, are really the best. For in the mightiest efforts of
mind the standard is placed very high—sometimes beyond the limit of
possible attainment, and the speaker works with his eye fixed upon the
summit, and often, after all his exertions, sees it shining above him
still, and closes with the conviction that his ideas are but half
expressed. He feels mortified that there should be such difference
between conception and execution. But his hearers, who have been led
over untrodden fields of thought, know nothing of the heights still
above the orator’s head, and are filled with enthusiasm, or have
received new impulses to good. This is the reason why we are least able
to judge of the success of sermons that have been long meditated, and
are thoroughly prepared. The subject expands as we study it, and its
outlines become grander and vaster, until they pass beyond our power of
representation. And each separate thought that is mastered also becomes
familiar, and is not valued at its full worth by the speaker. If he had
begun to speak without thought, intending to give only the easy and
common views of his subject, all would have been fresh to him, and if a
striking idea presented itself, its novelty would have enhanced its
appreciation. This is no reason against diligent preparation, but rather
a strong argument in favor of it. It should only stimulate us to improve
our powers of expression as well as of conception.

But with all these sources of uncertainty in our judgment of our own
productions, we should not be indifferent to our perceptions of success
or failure. In the greater number of instances will be correct, and we
can very frequently discover the cause of either, and use this knowledge
to future profit.

Even if we imagine our failure to be extreme, we have no need to feel
unduly discouraged. God can, and does, often work with the feeblest
instruments, and the sermon we despise may accomplish its purpose. The
writer preached one evening when very weary, and almost unprepared. From
first to last a painful effort was required to find anything to say, and
to prevent utter failure the intended plan had to be abandoned, and new,
detached thoughts thrown in as they could be found. And yet that
discourse, which was scarcely worthy of the name, elicited warmer
approval, and apparently accomplished more good, than any one from the
same preacher ever given at that point. But such instances should never
lead us to neglect all the preparation in our power, for usually when
failure springs from a real defect, the verdict of the people will
coincide with our own.

However we may judge of our success it is not wise to ask any of our
hearers for their opinion. We may observe any indications of the effect
produced, and, if the criticisms of others are offered spontaneously, it
is not necessary to repulse them, especially if they are marked by a
spirit of candor and good will; but all seeking for commendation is
debasing. It is sweet to hear our sermons praised, and most of men can
endure an amount of flattery addressed to themselves, that would be
disgusting if applied to others; but if we indulge this disposition it
will become ungovernable, and expose us to well-deserved ridicule. It is
pitiable to see a man who is mighty in word and thought, who wields the
vast powers of eloquence, stooping to beg crusts of indiscriminate
praise from his hearers. Nothing contributes more to destroy our
influence, and make our audience believe that we are merely actors,
unaffected by the sublime truths we declare.

It is well to think over our sermons after they have been preached, and
if any defect appear, amend it in the plan, and add all the new ideas
that may have been suggested during speech. This prepares us to preach
still better when we have occasion to use the same plan a second time.

Some ministers are accustomed to write their sermons after delivery.
This may do well, especially when the theme is of great importance, but
in general, it is questionable whether the advantage is great enough to
warrant the expenditure of so much time.

But to review and correct a verbatim report of our sermons would be far
more profitable. If some short-hand writer—a member of our family, or
any other who is willing to take so much trouble—will preserve our words
for us, a revisal of them on Monday would be of immense benefit. The
offensiveness of pet phrases, which we might otherwise be unconscious of
for years, would be detected at once. Faults of expression, and
especially the profuseness of words, in which extempore speakers are apt
to indulge, would be forced upon our notice; and if any really valuable
ideas occurred, they could be preserved. There would be little use in
writing the sermon over in full, for we would commonly find that it
might be reduced to one-third or one-fourth its bulk without material
injury. The habitual condensation of our sermons after delivery, would
teach us to express our thoughts compactly even in speech.

The only difficulty in applying this capital means of improvement, is
the small number of persons who can write short-hand with sufficient
rapidity—a difficulty that may be less in the future than it has been in
the past, and can now be obviated by the minister’s wife or daughters,
who may have sufficient perseverance and devotion to master the
laborious, but precious art for his sake.

                               PART III.
                        MISCELLANEOUS ADDRESSES.

                               CHAPTER I.
                          INSTRUCTIVE ADDRESS.

We will give only a brief consideration to the various fields of oratory
outside the pulpit, because the greater number of principles already
laid down can be applied, with slight modifications, to any kind of
speech. The different varieties of secular address may be divided as

                        I. Instructive Oratory.
                       II. Legal Oratory.
                      III. Deliberative Oratory.
                       IV. Popular Oratory.
                        V. Controversial Oratory.

We apply the first term to all oral teaching, more connected than
question and answer, and to all lectures that have instruction for their
primary object. This species of discourse differs from the sermon in the
absence of persuasion, rather than in its positive character. The
lecturer should thoroughly understand the topic he attempts to unfold,
and place it in the clearest possible light. Much illustration is
needed, for the subject is usually a novel one to the greater portion of
the audience, and can be best explained by comparison with familiar
objects. It should have its strong central points, which can be easily
remembered, and around which the minor parts of the discourse may be
grouped, for if the whole consist of isolated facts poured forth without
generalization or arrangement, no distinct impression will be left.

Appeals to passion and emotion are less necessary in lectures than in
most other kinds of speech. Yet so closely are heart and intellect
connected, that we can arouse attention, and secure a more durable
result, if the facts we narrate are linked with the experiences and
emotions of life.

The practice of writing is even more prevalent when applied to lectures
than to sermons, and the reasons urged in its favor have more
plausibility. As the lecturer does not aim to move his hearers to
immediate action, the advantages of direct address are less required.
Still he wishes to interest them, and it may be questioned whether this
can, in any case, be so well accomplished from manuscript. But it is
urged that in a scientific lecture there is often too great a number of
detached facts to be easily remembered. This may be true, but it
suggests another important question: if they cannot be recalled by the
speaker who has reviewed them again and again for days together, how can
it be expected that those who only hear them read over once, will retain
any distinct impression? A clearer generalization of the whole
discourse, and a proper arrangement of each fact under the principle
which it illustrates, would go far to obviate both difficulties. Yet, in
the use of statistics or other items, about which the speaker wishes to
be precise, though he may only care to give the audience a general
conception of them, notes will be a great relief to the memory, and the
statement of principles deduced can be still made in direct address.

After a man has become so famous that each word he utters will be
listened to with profound attention, because it comes from him, he may
write safely. This is especially the case with those who have become
authorities in their own departments of knowledge. What they say is
received rather as a conclusion to argument, than as an assertion to be
weighed, and the calm, deliberate reading of such final statements has
all needed impressiveness. But if we have not attained this position, we
had better employ every legitimate means to interest our audiences.

It is often claimed by the advocates of reading, that a literary lecture
must be written to secure the polish and smoothness needful in the
treatment of such themes. It will not do, say they, to give, in our
words and manner, an illustration of the absence of the very qualities
we praise. But surely men can speak on a subject they understand in good
grammar and fitting language, without having first placed each word on
paper! And if they attempt much beyond this they lead the mind of the
hearer from the subject to a consideration of the skill of the lecturer.
We are ready to grant that compositions should be read, not spoken, when
ever they cease to instruct about something else, and become an
exhibition in themselves. A poet is right in reading his poem; and even
in prose, if we wish to call attention to our melodious words, and our
skill in literary composition, instead of the subject we have nominally
taken, it will be well to write. But the resulting composition will not
be a lecture.

The field for instructive lectures is constantly enlarging. In former
times they were monopolized by university professors, and very few
persons sought to teach the people. But this has changed. There are now
many more schools where courses of lectures are given on various topics,
and every town of any pretension has its annual lecture course. Even
these are not sufficient to meet the increasing demand, and, as every
community cannot pay Beecher or Gough from one to five hundred dollars
for an evening’s entertainment, there is abundant scope for humbler
talent. Strolling lecturers, without character or knowledge, reap a rich
harvest from the credulity of the people. Even the noble science of
phrenology is often disgraced by quacks, who perambulate the country and
pretend to explain its mysteries—sometimes telling character and
fortunes at the same time. So far has this prostitution of talent and
opportunity gone, that the village lecturer is often placed in a
category with circus clowns and negro minstrels. But this should not be,
and no class could do more to prevent it than the clergy. If they would
each prepare a lecture or two upon some important subject they have
mastered, they could extend their usefulness, and teach others besides
their own flocks.

Lecturers are becoming more numerous and popular. New sciences and arts
are continually springing into being, and there is no way that a
knowledge of them can be so readily diffused among the masses of the
people, as by public addresses upon them. Even the oldest of the
sciences—Astronomy—has been brought to the knowledge of thousands who
otherwise would have remained in ignorance of its mysteries. It was thus
that the lamented General O. M. Mitchel succeeded in awakening public
interest, and in securing funds for the erection of his observatory at

Benefit lectures are very common. In these the services of the lecturer
are given gratis, or for a nominal compensation, and persons are induced
to purchase tickets that some good cause may be benefited by the
proceeds. This is the most pleasant of compromises, and is surely better
than fairs, gift drawings, etc., although when the patronage of the
public is thus secured for a lecture that has no real merit, the benefit
is more questionable.

The most important point in a lecture is that the subject be thoroughly
understood, and so arranged that there may be no difficulty in grasping
the whole thought. Vivacity and life will prevent the audience from
growing weary; wit, if it be true and delicate, will add to the
interest, and has a far larger legitimate sphere than in a sermon.
Ornaments, too, may abound, provided they do not call attention away
from the subject, or weaken the force of expression. The plan of a
lecture may be constructed in a manner similar to that of a sermon, as
the end in view is not very different. If this be well arranged, and all
the principles, facts and illustrations be properly placed, no need of
writing will be felt.

                              CHAPTER II.

The speech adapted to the bench and bar presents some peculiar features.
The lawyer deals with facts and living issues. He works for immediate
results, and therefore uses the means best adapted to secure them. The
use of manuscript, which increases in proportion as we remove from the
sphere of passion, finds no place when life and property are at stake.
The lawyer who would read his appeal to the jury in an exciting case,
would have few others to make. At the bar the penalty for inefficiency
is so rapid and certain, that every nerve is strained to avoid it. To
argue with a lawyer against the use of written discourses, would be like
proving the advantage of commerce to an Englishman. His danger lies in
the opposite direction—that of caring too little for polish, and of
making the verdict of the jury his only aim.

A lawyer should never contend for what he believes to be wrong. Yet the
common estimate of the morality of attorneys is not based on fact. They
may have greater temptations than some others, and many of them may
fall, but another reason than this accounts for the grave imputations
cast on them. In every suit, at least one party must be disappointed,
and it is natural that, in his bitterness, he should throw discredit on
all the agencies by which his hopes were destroyed. But this is most
frequently groundless. The lawyer may be counsel for a man whom he knows
to be in the wrong, but he ought never to take his stand on a false
position. He may show any weakness in his adversary’s case, and see that
all the provisions of the law are faithfully complied with, but must not
endeavor to distort the truth. An adherence to this determination will
soon give his words a power and influence that will more than
counterbalance all disadvantages. Let him seek for the strong points in
his own case, and then throw them into the simplest and boldest shape,
not forgetting the importance of appealing to the heart, as well as
head, of judge and jury.

The judge differs from the advocate in having both sides of the case to
present, and in seeking truth rather than victory. As he stands upon the
law, and unfolds its dictates, which are obeyed as soon as known, he has
no need to appeal to passion, and can give his words with all calmness
and certainty.

Under the most absolute monarchy there are always some things that men
are left to settle according to their own pleasure, and when a number of
persons have equal interest and authority this can only be done by
discussion. In our own land the people bear rule, and the field of
deliberation is almost infinitely widened. City councils, State and
national legislatures, the governing societies of churches, parties,
companies, and all organizations, have more or less of power to be
exercised. If this were vested in a single will, silent pondering would
determine each question, but in assemblies these must be decided by
discussion, argument and vote.[1]

Footnote 1:

  See rules for these in Appendix.

There is one general peculiarity that marks the speeches addressed to
such a body; their main object is to give information. All are about to
act, and are supposed to be diligently looking for the best course to be
taken. This secures an interest in everything that really throws new
light on the subject, while it often renders such an assemblage
intolerant of mere declamation. In representative bodies there is also
constant reference to the opinions and wishes of those for whom they

Such speeches are frequently intended to be read beyond the bounds of
the audience where they are delivered, and for this reason are often
elaborately prepared, and read at first. If they do truly give
information, either in reference to principles or facts, they suffer
from this less than any other class of addresses. They may be dry and
unattractive in form, but if each concerned, feels that he is obtaining
new facts for guidance, he will listen with patience. Yet, even then, a
greater impression would be produced if the same accuracy and sureness
of statement were embodied in spoken words. Let there first, be broad,
statesmanlike views, a clear comprehension of the effects of measures,
and perfect confidence in what we advocate, and then all the graces of
speech may be added with the certainty that their effect will be that
always produced by true eloquence.

A popular address differs from a lecture in having an element of
persuasion in it. In fact, this is its principal characteristic. When we
desire to incline the hearts of the people to some favorite cause, we
assemble them together, and labor by all the arguments we can command,
to induce them to adopt our views and enter on the course we recommend.
Energy and earnestness are the qualities most uniformly successful. The
people care little for the subtile niceties of speech, but they require
that the man who addresses them should believe what he says, and feel
the power of his own reasoning. A deep, strong, unfaltering conviction
is always an element of strength.

Many speakers think it an advantage to flatter the prejudices of the
people, but they are mistaken. Temporary applause may be won, but second
thoughts are apt to detect the lurking insincerity, even if they do not
overthrow the prejudice itself If the speaker be really under the
influence of the same misconception as the audience, this is a different
matter, for hearty devotion, even to the wrong, is contagious. But calm
reasoning and truth are always best. These gave Abraham Lincoln the
superiority over Stephen A. Douglas, making him more effective with the
people than the latter was, not withstanding his fervid eloquence. The
one appealed to the reason of the people, the other to passion.

Humor has a place in the popular address not second to any other
quality. A telling anecdote, or a good illustration (the homelier the
better, if it be not coarse), will arrest attention and dwell longer on
the memory, than the strongest argument.

Controversial oratory partakes of the nature of a battle, but should be
something more than strife for victory. There is little danger of
languid attention in this species of address, for opposition arouses
both speaker and hearer.

The golden rule in all controversies, is to be certain of a solid basis
of fact, and follow the guidance of true principles. Then we deserve
success. But fair means only should be employed. It is so hard to see an
adversary triumph even, when convinced of the correctness of his
position, that we can scarcely forbear employing every artifice to
prevent such a result. But we should never misrepresent our opponent.
Even if he has been unfortunate in his explanations, and leaves the way
open for a natural misconception, we should use our best efforts to
understand what he really means, and give him the credit of that. We
must also allow his reasoning its due force. No just argument ought ever
to be weakened. Let us bring forward our views, and, if possible, show
that they are truer and more firmly based than his. And if we see that
this cannot be done, there is only one manly course left—to surrender at
discretion. If we cannot maintain our views by clear proof, we should
abandon them, and seek others that need no questionable support.

                                PART IV.
                      EMINENT EXTEMPORE SPEAKERS.


                           EMINENT SPEAKERS.

                            USE OF EXAMPLES.

Notwithstanding the popularity of unwritten speech, and the innumerable
arguments in its favor, there is an impression in some quarters that the
very highest excellence cannot be attained without the previous use of
the pen. It may be shown that it is more natural to find the words in
which our thoughts are clothed at the moment of expression; that a
stronger and better frame-work of thought can be constructed, if the
mind, in preparing for speech, is occupied with that alone; that the
speaker and hearer may thus be brought into closer union; that this, in
short, is the order of nature, which leaves the solid frame-work of the
tree standing through many winters, but each spring bestows its graceful
robe of leaves upon that which was prepared to receive it. But this is
not enough to produce lasting conviction. It is still maintained, almost
with obstinacy, that in the highest fields of oratory, words must be
previously chosen, fitted together, and polished.

This nearly every speech-writer proves from his own experience. The
efforts that have afforded him most satisfaction were those in which
nothing had been left to the chance of the moment. But it is easy to see
how even experience may mislead in this particular. We can judge the
comparative merits of another in his different modes of address with
some approach to accuracy, for our mental state—that of
listeners—continues the same under them all. But it is different when we
judge ourselves. When we extemporize, our best expressions fade from the
mind after they have been given forth, and can only be recalled by a
strong effort. On the other hand, when we have wrought our language
slowly, and lingered over each sentence, we see all the beauty it
contains, and begin to admire our own production. If we see anything
faulty, instead of lamenting it, as we would an unfortunate, spoken
sentence, we change it, and take credit for the keenness of our critical
taste. Is it wonderful that when we come before an audience with an
address made as nearly perfect as we can construct it in every line, and
the whole clearly written, or firmly engraved on the memory, and then
repeat it, with a full appreciation of each beauty as we pass along,
that we consider it to be of far higher merit than the impassioned
torrent poured forth on another occasion, when we scarcely knew that we
were using words at all? If the people do not seem to appreciate it,
their want of taste and culture affords a ready excuse for them, even if
the speaker is not too much occupied with his own eloquence to notice
them at all. He is always ready, too, with the examples of Massillon and
Bossuet, or of Chalmers, to prove that it was thus the most powerful
orators spoke.

We do not deny that great effects may be produced, under certain
circumstances, by committed words. The fact that many actors have won
great fame by repeating the words of others, proves how much may be done
in this direction. It is but reasonable, that if some gifted minds can
thrill an audience to tears, and rouse every feeling to its highest bent
by merely copying others, that those who, in addition to this ability,
possess the power of framing their own thoughts in suitable words, may
accomplish as much. John B. Gough is an instance of the power that may
be wielded in this manner. But such men cannot occupy the highest
position in the temple of fame. They are but actors. When they speak
they will be listened to with eagerness and pleasure, as great
performers always are, but it will be as performers rather than as
authorities. They have placed themselves on a level with those who deal
in unreal things, and there they must be content to remain. Doubtless it
is more noble to speak the sentiments and feelings that we once
possessed, in the language adapted to _that_ time, than to deal in those
belonging to another person, but the resemblance between the two is very
close, and the people feel it so acutely that they make no

But we maintain that even in momentary effect—the quality which is
supposed to belong peculiarly to the powerful declamation of prepared
language—extempore speakers have passed beyond all others; while in
power of thought and lasting influence, there can be no comparison.
There is no single quality of speech that cannot be reached as well
without writing as with it, while perpetual readiness, vast and profound
knowledge (which writing extensively leaves no time to acquire), and
weight and authority with the people, belong almost exclusively to the

These assertions may seem bold to many, but we are prepared to
substantiate them. In the preceding pages we have aimed to show how this
species of address may be acquired, and improved to an almost unlimited
degree. The ideal thus sketched is not an impossible or imaginary one.
It has often been attained, and for the encouragement of those who may
be disposed to throw away their manuscripts, and trust to the method of
nature, the following examples are selected. These are chosen because of
their eminence, and also because of the wide variety of qualities
displayed in their eloquence. Many more might be given, but these are
sufficient for our purpose, which is to show that in every department of
speech the highest eloquence that ever flowed from the lips of men has
clothed itself in unpremeditated words.

In these sketches we, of course, make no pretension to originality, but
have compiled what was adapted to our purpose from every available
source. And as the matter so obtained has been frequently abridged, and
two or three different accounts woven together, it has sometimes been
impossible to give full credit. We are under especial obligation to the
“New American Cyclopedia,” Mosheim’s Church History, Stevens’s History
of Methodism, Harsha’s “Orators and Statesmen,” “Kidder’s Homiletics,”
with the current biographies of the speakers treated of.

Much of the oratory of antiquity was recited. This has been used as an
argument to prove the comparative inferiority of that speech which is
the offspring of the moment, forgetting the great difference between
ancient and modern life—a difference arising from the greater diversity
of the latter, and the nobler aims to which it gives birth. The typical
Grecian oration is as much a work of art as a statue. It was made to be
admired, and if, by the beauty of its arrangement, the melody of its
language, and the elegance of its delivery, this object was achieved,
the orator was satisfied. It was so, to a less degree, in the classic
age of Rome. The form of the oration was of greater importance than its
matter, and it was judged that this would be best perfected by the use
of the pen, and of the memory. Yet the practice of antiquity on this
point was far from uniform. Some of the noblest orators spoke extempore,
and have less fame than those who adopted the opposite plan, only
because at that time the art of reporting was too imperfect to preserve
their eloquence. The effect they produced remains, and from it we obtain
a faint view of their greatness. Pericles spoke without previous
writing, and the sway his speech established over his countrymen was
more undisputed than that of Demosthenes. The latter had an assemblage
of talents that, with his tireless industry, would have made him eminent
in any mode of address that he might have adopted; but even he did not
recite exclusively.

The great rival of Cicero, Hortensius, whose wonderful power excited the
emulation of the former, spoke from the impulse of the moment, as did
many of the more eminent of the Roman orators. Cicero was a man of
tireless energy. He applied himself to the study and practice of
eloquence with a singleness of aim, and a concentration of purpose that
may well command our admiration. He accumulated vast stores of
knowledge, perfected his logic, and improved his voice until it became
music, and brought all the resources of a mighty mind to bear on
oratory. It is not wonderful that he was listened to with profound
attention, while he recited what he had previously composed. But some of
his most brilliant passages were extemporaneous. The outburst that
overwhelmed Catiline when he unexpectedly appeared in the senate, was
coined, at white heat, by the passion of the moment.

The reason why so many of the ancients committed their speeches, was
because they could not be preserved otherwise, unless the orator could
remember and write down what he had said. Every unwritten speech
perished, and left nothing but a dim memory of the results it had
produced. This is the reason why the extempore speakers of the ancient
world are less known than the reciters. But the art of short-hand has
effected a revolution in this particular, and the most impassioned
speeches are now photographed for the admiration of future generations.
The man who wishes his speech preserved is no longer compelled to write

                     EARLY PREACHING IN THE CHURCH.

We may be sure that the preaching of Christ and the Apostles was without
notes. It seems scarcely less than profanation to picture even the
latter as reading from a previously prepared manuscript, after they had
been promised the help of the Spirit in the hour when help was needed;
and it is inconceivable that the Saviour should have taken any other
mode of imparting His wisdom to men, than that of direct address. Paul
deprecated the eloquence of mere words, although the sketch of his
sermon on Mars’ Hill, with other addresses, shows that he did not
neglect the eloquence of thought, and the strength of orderly, logical
arrangement. We have no direct evidence of the manner of preaching in
the first century, but from all intimations we are led to conclude that
sermons were composed without the use of the pen, and consisted of easy,
familiar scripture expositions and deductions of moral lessons. Origen,
the most celebrated divine of the third century, preached without
manuscript, and Eusebius says of him:

  “Then, as was to be expected, our religion spreading more and more,
  and our brethren beginning to converse more freely with all, Origen,
  who they say was now more than sixty years of age, and who, from
  long practice, had acquired great facility in discoursing, permitted
  his discourses to be taken down by ready writers, a thing which he
  had never allowed before.”

This shows not only that he had been accustomed to preach extempore, but
that he would not permit the sketches of his sermons which could be made
by the imperfect reporting of that day, to be published until late in
life. This would be very natural, when unstudied explanation was the
main object of the address, but very unnatural if the sermon had been
written according to the rules of rhetorical composition. In the sermons
of Chrysostom there are many passages which could not, from their
nature, have been precomposed, and these are among the most brilliant of
all. But Augustine, who flourished in the fourth century, affords us a
still more conclusive proof of the power of the natural mode of address.


The father of this great man was a pagan, but his mother was a
Christian. She was a most remarkable woman, and from her he doubtless
inherited some of the strongest elements of his character. Her prayers
for his conversion were almost continual, but for many years produced no
apparent result. He plunged into many excesses, and lived a most
irregular life, but from this he was aroused by the death of his father,
and by the study of philosophy. For a time the latter seemed to satisfy
his ardent mind, but soon he saw its insufficiency, became an earnest
searcher for truth, and explored the writings of the sages of antiquity
without being able to find anything on which he could rest. The problems
of life pressed upon him with a terrible weight, and he was too profound
a thinker to be satisfied with any superficial explanation. The doctrine
of the ancient Persians—that of the two antagonistic principles of good
and evil in the world—for a while charmed his imagination, but its
influence over him soon passed away. During all this time he was rising
in fame as a teacher of rhetoric and eloquence, and had established a
school in Rome which became widely celebrated.

His reputation as a teacher caused him to be summoned to Milan, where
the Emperor then was. The great preacher, Ambrose, then in the zenith of
his power, officiated in that city. Augustine heard him, and felt that
his doubts were answered. But it required a terrible struggle before he
could yield, and it was only after he had passed the whole series of
Christian doctrines in review, and tested them by all his mighty power
of argument, that he at last reposed in the truth. The joy of his good
mother can scarcely be conceived at this answer to her unceasing prayer,
and she soon passed away triumphantly. He spent a short period in
seclusion and profound meditation, was then baptized, and four years
after began to preach.

The success of Augustine was as great in preaching as it had been in
teaching, and he was promoted to the office of Bishop. His power was
soon felt all over the Christian world. He at once entered on a course
of labor like that of Whitefield and Wesley, but still more varied. He
preached once every day, and sometimes twice; visited the sick and poor
with great assiduity; governed his diocese wisely; was the Christian
champion against almost innumerable forms of heresy all over the world;
composed some most beautiful hymns; wrote extensive commentaries that
are still valued; kept up a vast correspondence with emperors, kings,
and church dignitaries everywhere; and indited works of theology,
literature, criticism, and philosophy in immense profusion. Some of
these will live as long as the language in which they are written is
known. For thirty-five years he remained at his post, and died at last,
while his city was beleagured by a barbarian army, in time to escape
witnessing the ruin that burst on the flock he had so long loved and

The power of Augustine as a preacher can scarcely be overrated.
Everywhere the people flocked to hear him, and the most enduring fruits
followed his ministry. His sermons were not calculated simply to win
admiration for the preacher, but pointed to the holier life, and led men
to love and strive after it. He was the real founder of what is known at
the present day as Calvinism, and by his vast power made it the
prevailing doctrine of the church for centuries after his death. There
can be no question about his sincerity and earnestness, and just as
little regarding the influence of his solemn eloquence. He quieted
tumults, changed the opinions of whole towns, and wielded assemblies at
his will. He left a large number of sermons in a fragmentary condition,
but fully justifying all that his contemporaries have written of him.

It is not possible that such a man should have read or recited his
discourses. To have done so would have left him no time for such grand
works as the “Confessions,” “City of God,” and others too numerous to
mention, which will endure while the world stands. But he has not left
us in doubt as to his mode of preaching. He enjoins the “Christian
teacher” to make his hearers comprehend what he says, “to read in the
eyes and countenances of his auditors whether they understand him or
not, and to repeat the same thing by giving it different terms, till he
perceives that it is understood, an advantage which those cannot have
who, by a servile dependence on their memories, learn their sermons by
heart, and repeat them as so many lessons. Let not the preacher become
the servant of words; rather let words be servants to the preacher.” In
his charity, however, he does allow of reciting under certain
circumstances. “Those who are destitute of invention, but can speak
well, provided they select well written discussions of another man and
commit them to memory for the instruction of their hearers, will not do
badly if they take this course.”


The name of Luther is so well known that it will not be necessary to
give more than a very brief sketch of his wonderful life. The peasant,
who was raised by his virtues to more than kingly power, and to be the
leader of the greatest religious movement of modern times, cannot be a
stranger to the world. Luther was bred in the midst of poverty and
almost of want. As he grew older, his father, who was a kind-hearted,
though stern man, began to rise in the world, and found means to send
him to school. The patronage of a wealthy lady named Cotta, was also of
great benefit to him. He was distinguished very early for quickness and
profundity of intellect, and the highest hopes were formed of him. But
in the midst of flattering prospects, he was deeply convicted of sin,
and terrified concerning his spiritual state. After he had spent a long
time in mental struggles, full of agony, he resolved to become a monk,
as the surest way of allaying all doubt, and obtaining the spiritual
rest for which he longed. His father never forgave this step, until his
son stood in direct opposition to the power of Rome. But the ardent
heart of Luther could not find peace in the dull routine of a convent
life, and every spiritual trial was redoubled. At last, while he was
reading in an old copy of the Bible, which he had found in the library
of the convent, the great doctrine of justification by faith dawned upon
him with all the freshness of a new revelation. He at once began to
teach the people the same blessed doctrine, with the most gratifying
results. His preaching was marked by great power, and soon his sphere
widened. He was made a doctor of divinity in the University of
Wittenberg, and began to lecture on Paul’s Epistles, and the Psalms. He
was still a devoted adherent of Rome, although he taught the students
under his care to look to the Scriptures as the fountain of all
authority. But the germs of the Reformation were already hid in his own
mind, and it only required circumstances to bring them into vigorous

These were soon supplied. When a monk came to Wittenberg, selling
pardons for every kind of sin, even that which was to be committed,
Luther felt it his duty to warn the people against any dependence on
such sources of forgiveness. The Pope took part with the monk in the
strife that followed; and the contest went from one point to another,
until the Pope hurled a decree of excommunication at Luther, which he
burned, in the presence of his adherents, as a token of defiance and
contempt. The reformation spread wonderfully, and although surrounded on
every side by threatenings and enemies, the life of this great man was
spared, and for years he exerted an influence in Germany not second to
that of the Emperor himself. When he fell at last, in the midst of his
labors, the people mourned for him as for a personal benefactor.

All through his life, Luther had the secret of reaching the hearts of
the people in a wonderful manner. No other of the great men who abounded
at that time possessed a tithe of his power in this respect. It has been
said “that his words were half battles.” His discourses were not smooth
or graceful, yet it was not for want of ability to secure these
qualities, for he had great command of every style of language, and
loved softer and more ornamented speech in others; but he was too much
in earnest, with an empire, and the vastest hierarchy the world ever
saw, arrayed against him, to stay to use them. Whenever he preached the
people would flock together from great distances, and listen as to a
prophet, while he unfolded the grand and simple plan of salvation in the
plainest words. He had every element of a great preacher. His
imagination was most vivid, and he did not fail to use it to the utmost.
He could paint a scene in all the completeness of action before his
hearers, and awaken their tears or smiles at his will. He used no
manuscript, but spoke from the vast fulness of knowledge he possessed on
every subject. His pen was employed as well as his voice. By it he not
only produced a great number of books that advanced the cause of the
Reformation almost as much as his spoken efforts, but by the combination
of the two methods of expression, writing to meet the eye and speaking
for the ear, he taught himself both accuracy and readiness, and was thus
prepared for the part he was called upon to act. Added to these, were
his strong emotions, and indomitable will, which gave him an energy that
bore every thing before him. For beauty and grace in themselves he cared
nothing, but when they came unbidden, as they often did, they were
welcome. He rightly estimated his own character and work when he said
“that he was rough, boisterous, stormy, and altogether warlike; born to
fight innumerable devils and monsters, to remove stumps and stones, to
cut down thistles and thorns, and to clear the wild woods.”

                             LORD CHATHAM.

It may well be doubted whether the eloquence of this great and wonderful
man did not surpass that of either Cicero or Demosthenes. It is certain
that the effects he repeatedly produced have never been surpassed. And
he had not to deal with a populace easily moved, although cultivated in
some particulars, as they had; but his mightiest triumphs were won in
the British Parliament, from an acute, critical, and often hostile
assembly. His example, with that of his son, who was almost equally
great, afford an irrefutable answer to those who doubt the capacity of
unwritten speech to convey impressions as mighty as any ever produced by

He was born in 1708, and was educated at Oxford, quitting it without a
degree, but with a brilliant reputation. Soon after he entered
Parliament, and gained such power that he was shortly advanced to the
office of Prime Minister. This was in the reign of George II. and at the
opening of the Seven Years War, by which England won the province of
Canada, and became the most powerful empire in the world. But when he
took the reins of government it was far different. The armies of the
nation had been beaten in every quarter, and the people were almost in
despair. But he infused new spirit into them, and by his energy and
farsighted combinations, won the most glorious series of triumphs that
ever crowned the arms of England. His fame did not cease when he left
the ministry, and, in America at least, he is best known for his
friendly words to us during the revolutionary war. He opposed with all
the strength of his wondrous eloquence the oppressive measures that
provoked the colonists to revolution. Yet there was no element of fear
or compromise in his disposition. He only opposed the ministry in their
government of our country because he believed their measures to be
unjust. But when, after seven years of defeat and disaster, the body of
the nation became convinced that the Americans never could be conquered,
and the proposition was made to recognize their independence, Chatham
fought against the accomplishment of the separation with all his vigor.
He made his last speech on this subject, and while the house was still
under the solemn awe that followed his address, he was stricken down by
apoplexy and borne home to die.

We have little upon which to base an estimate of this almost unequalled
orator, save the effect he produced upon his contemporaries. Nothing has
been preserved of his speeches, but a few passages that stamped
themselves indelibly upon the minds of his hearers. Yet through his
eloquence, backed by his strong will, he was for many years virtually
dictator of England, and even when most alone, scarcely any one dared to
meet him in debate.

Many curious instances are given of the uncontrolled ascendency he
obtained over the House of Commons. His most celebrated rival was
Murray, Earl of Mansfield, who had just been promoted to the office of
Attorney-General, when the incident narrated below occurred. Chatham
made a speech, really intended to overwhelm Murray, but on a totally
different subject. Fox says “every word was MURRAY, yet so managed that
neither he nor anybody else could take public notice of it or in any way
reprehend him. I sat near Murray, who _suffered_ for an hour. At its
close he used an expression that at once became proverbial.” After the
unhappy Attorney had writhed for a time, and endured the terrible, but
indirect, satire of Chatham until endurance was scarcely possible any
longer, the latter stopped, threw his piercing eyes around as if in
search of something, then fixing their whole force on his victim,
exclaimed, “I must now address a few words to Mr. Attorney; they shall
be few, but they shall be daggers!” Murray was agitated; the look was
continued, and the agitation became so uncontrollable as to be noticed
by the whole house. “_Felix trembles_,” roared Chatham, in a voice of
thunder, “_he shall hear me some other day_.” Murray was too completely
stricken to attempt a reply.

On another occasion, having finished a speech, he walked out of the
house with a slow step, being at the time an habitual invalid. There was
a profound silence until he was passing through the door. Then a member
started up, saying, “Mr. Speaker, I rise to reply to the right honorable
gentleman.” Chatham caught the sound, turned back, and fixed his eye on
the orator, who instantly sat down. He then walked slowly to his seat,
repeating in Latin, as he hobbled along, the lines from Virgil, in which
is described the terror of the Grecian ghosts when Æneas entered the
dark realm:

             “The Grecian chiefs....
             When they beheld the MAN with shining arms
             Amid those shades, trembled with sodden fear,
             ... and raised
             A feeble outcry; but the sound commenced,
             _Died on their gurgling lips_.”

Reaching his seat, he exclaimed in a tone that terrified the whole
house, “Now let me hear what the honorable gentleman has to say to me.”
There was no response, and the whole body was too much awed to laugh at
the situation of the poor orator.

Yet he did not deal in the terrible and overpowering all the time. In a
most eloquent speech in opposition to a measure that he believed
violated the sanctity of the English home, he gave the following
description of that privilege which is justly the proudest boast of an
Englishman. A single passage is all that remains, but it will not soon
be forgotten:

  “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces
  of the Crown. It may be frail—its roof may shake—the wind may blow
  through it—the storm may enter—the rain may enter—but the King of
  England cannot enter!—all his forces dare not cross the threshold of
  the ruined tenement!”

Lord Macaulay, who was in no sense friendly to the great orator, gives
him a glowing eulogy:

  “His figure, when he first appeared in Parliament, was strikingly
  graceful and commanding, his features high and noble, his eye full
  of fire. His voice, even when it sank to a whisper, was heard to the
  remotest benches; when he strained it to its full extent, the sound
  rose like the swell of the organ of a great cathedral, shook the
  house with its peal, and was heard through lobbies, and down
  staircases, to the Court of Requests, and the precincts of
  Westminster Hall. He cultivated all these eminent advantages with
  the most assiduous care. His action is described by a very malignant
  observer as equal to that of Garrick. His play of countenance was
  wonderful; he frequently disconcerted a hostile orator by a single
  glance of indignation or scorn. Every tone, from the impassioned cry
  to the thrilling aside, was perfectly at his command.”

He was a truly extemporaneous speaker, and seldom attempted any other
style. When he did he failed. His memory was strong and retentive, and
his mind so fully stored with information on every subject that he was
always ready for debate. Some of his grandest efforts were called forth
by an unexpected circumstance, or a single glance of his eye. Once,
while replying to Suffolk, he caught a view of the tapestry on which was
painted some of the achievements of the ancestors of that lord, and
instantly seized the hint it conveyed and gave expression to one of the
noblest bursts of eloquence in any language. One of his contemporaries

  “When without forethought or any other preparation than those
  talents nature had supplied, and education cultivated, Chatham
  rose—stirred to anger by some sudden subterfuge of corruption, or
  device of tyranny—then was heard an eloquence never surpassed either
  in ancient or modern times. It was the highest power of expression
  ministering to the highest power of thought.”

                             WILLIAM PITT.

The manner in which the younger Pitt succeeded to the talents and
position of the elder is one of the most wonderful things in history.
His father trained him from his infancy in the models which he himself
had imitated so successfully. Some of these means of improvement, which
at least assisted in producing the peculiar character of the eloquence
of father and son, are worthy of our attention. They both translated
from the best classical authors, committed to memory choice passages
from the poets, and prose writers they valued, thus acquiring great
command of words. With such previous training, it would have been
useless for them to write even in their most elaborate efforts.

When the younger Pitt had finished the traditional college course and
was admitted to the bar, he also entered Parliament, being then only
twenty-three years of age. He delivered his first speech, which was
entirely unpremeditated, only about a month afterward. It took the house
by storm. In the midst of that brilliant assembly, accustomed to the
eloquence of Fox, Burke, and others worthy of any age, there was a
universal burst of enthusiastic admiration. When some one remarked,
“Pitt promises to be one of the first speakers ever heard in
Parliament,” Fox replied, “_He is so already._”

When only twenty-four years of age he was made Prime Minister, and held
the post for seventeen years. Although there is room for a wide
difference of opinion regarding many of his acts during this time, there
is none concerning his ability. Among other reforms that he advocated
was the abolition of the slave trade. He made a speech on this subject
that is still celebrated. Wilberforce said that “for the last twenty
minutes he really seemed to be inspired.” Windham declares “that he
walked home lost in amazement at the compass, until then unknown to him,
of human eloquence.” Pitt died at the comparatively early age of
forty-seven, holding the highest office in the gift of his country.

Brougham gives a glowing account of his power as an orator. “He is to be
placed without any doubt in the highest class. With a sparing use of
ornament, hardly indulging more in figures, or even in figurative
expression, than the most severe examples of ancient chasteness
allowed—with little variety of style, hardly any of the graces of
manner—he no sooner rose than he carried away every hearer, and kept the
attention fixed and unflagging until it pleased him to let it go; and

        “’So charming left his voice that we awhile
        Still thought him speaking, still stood fixed to hear.’

“This magical effect was produced by his unbroken flow, which never for
a moment left the hearer in pain or doubt, and yet was not the mean
fluency of mere relaxation, requiring no effort of the speaker, but
imposing on the listener a heavy task; by his lucid arrangement, which
made all parts of the most complicated subject quit their entanglement
and fall each in its place; by the clearness of his statements which
presented a picture to the mind; by the forcible appeals to strict
reason and strong feeling which formed the great staple of the
discourse; by the majesty of the diction; by the depth and fullness of
the most sonorous voice and the unbending dignity of the manner, which
ever reminded us that we were in the presence of more than the mere
advocate and debater, that there stood before us a ruler of the people.
Such were the effects invariably of this singular eloquence; nor did
anything, in any mood of mind, ever drop from him that was unsuited to
the majestic frame of the whole, or could disturb the serenity of the
full and copious flood that rolled along.”

Macaulay says: “At his first appearance in Parliament he showed himself
superior to all his contemporaries in command of language. He could pour
out a long succession of round and stately periods, without ever pausing
for a word, without ever repeating a word, in a voice of silver
clearness, and with a pronunciation so articulate that not a letter was
slurred over.”

These men, father and son, were never excelled in debate. They were
always ready. Every advantage that the occasion allowed was taken at the
time, and the favorable moment never went by while they were preparing.
They each attained a power they never would have possessed had it been
necessary for them to use manuscript or depend on their memory. The time
others have wasted in writing special orations, they employed in such
wide culture, and in accumulating such vast stores of knowledge, that
they were always ready. They were able to come to great intellectual
contests with their minds fresh and un-fagged by previous composition.

But it may be said that with all their power they were destitute of
polish and beauty. In such fragments of their speeches as have been
preserved, it is true that gracefulness is less conspicuous than force,
and the opponent of unwritten speech may imagine that this is a
necessary consequence of the manner in which they spoke. The advantage
they gained was worth the cost, even if this lack of the finer and more
elegant qualities of speech was inevitable. But that this does not
necessarily result from extempore speech, is abundantly proved by the
example of their great rival—

                             EDMUND BURKE.

This prince of imaginative orators was an Irishman. He was born in 1730,
and graduated in Dublin University at the age of twenty. For a short
time afterward he studied law, but soon grew weary of it and turned his
attention to philosophy and literature. The productions of his pen
speedily won an enviable reputation. A “Vindication of Natural Society”
was speedily followed by the celebrated “Essay on the Sublime and

His appearance in Parliament, the great arena of British eloquence, was
comparatively late in life, but as soon as elected he gave promise of
the great brilliancy he afterward displayed. For more than thirty years
he had no superior in that august body, and scarcely an equal. He stood
side by side with Pitt in defence of America, and endeared himself to
every lover of liberty in both hemispheres. The great impeachment of
Warren Hastings was mainly brought about by his influence, and afforded
room for all his powers. The war with France was the last great theme
upon which his eloquence was employed, and in it his strongly
conservative views alienated him from most of his former friends.

During all this time his eloquence was a wonder both to friend and foe,
and in its own style was never equalled in the House of Commons, or in
the world. His speech on the impeaching of Warren Hastings, made at the
bar of the House of Lords, was an unparalleled effort. It extended over
a period of four days, and bore everything before it. On the third day
of this great speech, he described the cruelties inflicted on some of
the natives of India by one of Hastings’s agents, with such vividness
that one convulsive shudder ran through the whole assemblage, while the
speaker was so much affected by the picture he had penciled, that he
dropped his head upon his hands, and was for some moments unable to
proceed. Some, who were present, fell into a swoon, while even Hastings
himself, who disclaimed all responsibility for these things, was
overwhelmed. In speaking of the matter afterwards he says: “For half an
hour I looked upon the orator in a revery of wonder, and actually felt
myself to be the most culpable man on earth.” Lord Thurlow, who was
present, declares that long after, many who were present had not
recovered from the shock, and probably never would.

Soon after, the great speech of Sheridan was delivered. Like Burke’s, it
was extempore, and no report of it, worthy the name, remains. It was
only inferior to the mighty effort that preceded it. A clergyman who
came to the house strongly prepossessed in favor of Hastings, said at
the close of the first hour, to a friend who sat by him, “This is mere
declamation without proof.” When another hour had passed, he remarked,
“This is a wonderful oration.” Another hour went by, and again he spoke:
“Warren Hastings certainly acted unjustifiably.” At the end of the
fourth hour he said: “Hastings is an atrocious criminal.” When the
speech closed at the end of the fifth hour, he vehemently declared, “Of
all monsters of iniquity, Warren Hastings is certainly the most

For seven long years this unprecedented trial went on. More than
one-third of those who sat on the judge’s bench when it began were in
their graves. When, at last it drew to a close, Burke made to the Lords
a closing charge worthy of his genius:

  “My Lords,” said he, “I have done! The part of the Commons is
  concluded! With a trembling hand we consign the product of these
  long, _long_ labors to your charge. _Take it! Take it!_ It is a
  sacred trust! Never before was a cause of such magnitude submitted
  to any human tribunal.... My Lords, it has pleased Providence to
  place us in such a stage that we appear every moment to be on the
  verge of some great mutation. There is one thing, and one thing only
  that defies mutation—that which existed before the world itself. I
  mean JUSTICE; that justice which, emanating from the Divinity, has a
  place in the breast of every one of us, given us for our guide with
  regard to ourselves and with regard to others; and which will stand
  after this globe is burned to ashes, our advocate or our accuser
  before our great Judge, when He comes to call upon us for the tenor
  of a well spent life.”

The effect of this speech upon the auditory was such that it was only
after some time had elapsed, and after repeated efforts, that Fox,
himself a giant in eloquence, could obtain a hearing.

The character of Burke’s eloquence is well summed up in the following
account, given by Wraxall, one of his contemporaries:

  “Nature had bestowed on him a boundless imagination, aided by a
  memory of equal strength and tenacity. His fancy was so vivid that
  it seemed to light up by its own powers, and to burn without
  consuming the aliment on which it fed: sometimes bearing him away
  into ideal scenes created by his own exuberant mind, but from which
  he, sooner or later, returned to the subject of debate; descending
  from his most aerial flights, by a gentle and imperceptible
  gradation, till he again touched the ground. Learning waited on him
  like a handmaid, presenting to his choice all that antiquity has
  culled or invented, most elucidatory of the topic under discussion.
  He always seemed to be oppressed under the load and variety of his
  intellectual treasures. Every power of oratory was wielded by him in
  its turn; for he could be, during the same evening, often within the
  space of a few minutes, pathetic and humorous; acrimonious and
  conciliating; now giving loose to his indignation or severity; and
  then, almost in the same breath, calling to his assistance wit and
  ridicule. It would be endless to cite instances of this versatility
  of his disposition, and of the rapidity of his transitions,

              ‘From grave to gay, from lively to severe,’

  that I have, myself, witnessed. . . . What he was in public he was
  in private; like the star which now precedes and now follows the
  sun, he was equally brilliant whether he

              ‘Flamed in the forehead of the morning sky,’

  or led on with a milder luster the modest hosts of evening.”

A Frenchman gives a graphic description of one of his speeches. At first
he was disappointed in his appearance.

  “I certainly did not expect to find him in the British Parliament
  dressed in the ancient toga; nor was I prepared to see him in a
  tight brown coat, which seemed to impede every movement, and above
  all, the little hat-wig with curls. . . . He moved into the middle
  of the house contrary to the usual practice, for the members speak
  standing and uncovered, not leaving their places. But Mr. Burke,
  with the most natural air imaginable, with seeming humility, and
  with folded arms, began his speech in so low a tone of voice that I
  could scarcely hear him. Soon after, however, becoming animated by
  degrees, he described religion attacked, the bonds of subordination
  broken, civil society threatened to its foundation.... When in the
  course of this grand sketch, (to show that England could depend only
  on herself,) he mentioned Spain, that immense monarchy, which
  appeared to have fallen into a total lethargy: ‘What can we expect,’
  said he, ‘from her?—mighty indeed, but unwieldy—vast in bulk, but
  inert in spirit—_a whale stranded upon the sea shore of Europe_.’
  The whole House was silent; every mind was fixed; ... never was the
  electric power of eloquence more imperiously felt. I have witnessed
  many, too many political assemblages and striking scenes where
  eloquence performed a noble part, but the whole of them appear
  insipid when compared with this amazing effort.”

Burke was an extemporaneous speaker in the sense we have used the word
in the preceding pages. He thought over the ideas of his speech as fully
as his time permitted, and when he spoke, threw them into the language
of the moment. At the conclusion of one of his speeches on the American
question, his friends crowded around and urged him to write what he had
said for the benefit of the world. He did so then, and also on five
other occasions. Of the hundreds of other speeches he delivered only
broken and imperfect fragments remain.

Burke exerted himself in conversation, and thus improved his powers of
language in the method we have recommended. Dr. Johnson says of him in
his oracular way:

  “Burke is an extraordinary man. His stream of talk is perpetual; and
  he does not talk from any desire of distinction, but because his
  mind is full. He is the _only_ man whose common conversation
  corresponds with the general fame he has in the world. Take him up
  where you please, he is ready to meet you. No man of sense could
  meet him by accident under a gateway to avoid a shower without being
  convinced that he was the first man in England.”


The career of Mirabeau more resembles a strange romance than a sober
history. He was of a good family, but during his childhood and early
manhood his father treated him like a brute. His very appearance was
peculiar. His head was of enormous size, his body so much misshapen that
his father, who persecuted him for his deformity, declared that he
looked more like a monster than a human being. The whole of his early
life presents a picture of dreariness and misery exceeding that of
almost any other man who has risen to greatness. Several times he was
imprisoned—once for three years and a half—by order of his unnatural
parent. Finally he began to use his pen, and soon won general
admiration. His father, having failed to crush him, now became
reconciled, and allowed him to assume the family name, which he had not
permitted before. By this time he had a wide experience of vice, and was
deeply in debt. His struggles for several years were still severe.

But at length the great revolution came, and he found his true element.
The powers of speech which had already been displayed to a limited
extent, were now exercised in a noble field. The people soon recognized
in him the qualities necessary for a leader, and elected him to the
General Assembly of France. Here he was feared and respected by all. He
had no party to support him, but worked alone, and often by the mere
force of his genius bent the Assembly to his will. During his whole
career there, he was not an extremist, and for a time before his death
was engaged in upholding the crown and the cause of constitutional
government against the party of anarchy and death. This lost him his
unbounded popularity with the fickle populace of Paris, and they began
to shout for his blood. He was charged in the Assembly with corruption,
and treason to the cause of liberty. This only prepared the way for his
triumph. The very tree was marked on which he was to be hung. But he did
not quail before the storm. When he reached the hall, he found himself
in the midst of determined enemies already drunk with blood, and with no
friend who dared to speak on his behalf. But the mere force of eloquence
prevailed. He spoke in words of such power that the noisy multitude was
stilled, and the tide turned.

After this triumph he took part in every measure, and was really the
guiding power of the state. The king leaned on him as the only stay of
his reign, and the moderate of every party began to look to him as the
hope of France. Sometimes he spoke five times in one day, and at the
sound of his magical voice the anarchical Assembly was hushed into
reverence and submission. But his exertions were beyond his strength. At
last he was prostrated. Every hour the king sent to enquire of his
health, and bulletins of his state were posted in the streets. It seemed
as if the destiny of France was to be decided in his sick chamber. He
died, and the whole nation mourned, as well it might, for no other hand
than his could hold back the reign of terror. It is indeed a problem
whether that terrible tragedy would not have been prevented, if he had
but lived a few months longer.

Some of the speeches of this remarkable man were recited, but in these
he never attained his full power. A French writer well describes him:

“Mirabeau in the tribune was the most imposing of orators, an orator so
consummate, that it is harder to say what he wanted than what he

“Mirabeau had a massive and square obesity of figure, thick lips, a
forehead broad, bony, prominent; arched eyebrows, an eagle eye, cheeks
flat, and somewhat fleshy, features full of pock holes and blotches, a
voice of thunder, an enormous mass of hair, and the face of a lion.

“His manner as an orator is that of the great masters of antiquity, with
an admirable energy of gesture, and a vehemence of diction which perhaps
they had never reached.

“Mirabeau in his premeditated discourses was admirable. But what was he
not in his extemporaneous effusions? His natural vehemence, of which he
repressed the flights in his prepared speeches, broke down all barriers
in his improvisations. A sort of nervous irritability gave then to his
whole frame an almost preternatural animation and life. His breast
dilated with an impetuous breathing. His lion face became wrinkled and
contorted. His eyes shot forth flame. He roared, he stamped, he shook
the fierce mass of his hair, all whitened with foam; he trod the tribune
with the supreme authority of a master, and the imperial air of a king.
What an interesting spectacle to behold him, momently, erect and exalt
himself under the pressure of obstacle! To see him display the pride of
his commanding brow! To see him, like the ancient orator, when, with all
the power of his unchained eloquence, he was wont to sway, to and fro in
the Forum, the agitated waves of the Roman multitude. Then would he
throw by the measured notes of his declamation, habitually grave and
solemn. Then would escape him broken exclamations, tones of thunder, and
accents of heartrending and terrible pathos. He concealed with the flash
and color of his rhetoric, the sinewy arguments of his dialectics. He
transported the Assembly, because himself transported. And yet—so
extraordinary was his force—he abandoned himself to the torrent of his
eloquence, without wandering from his course; he mastered others by its
sovereign sway, without losing for an instant his own self-control.”

                             PATRICK HENRY.

The fame of this great man cannot soon be surpassed. He not only
produced a great impression at the time he spoke, but had an agency, by
his eloquent words, in bringing about the most important changes. He was
more than the mouthpiece of the American Revolution. He not merely
interpreted the feelings of the mass of the nation to itself, but in a
large degree originated the enthusiasm that led them through war to
independence. It is certain that the aristocratic and powerful colony of
Virginia would have occupied a far different place in the struggle for
liberty, if it had been deprived of his almost irresistible influence.
It is hard to speculate on what might have been the result if
temporizing measures had carried the day, and the union of the colonies
been interfered with by want of cordial sympathy. The political wisdom
of Franklin, and the military skill and constancy of Washington, did not
contribute more to final success than the bold councils and fervent
utterances of the country lawyer who is the subject of our sketch.

Patrick Henry was born in Hanover county, Virginia, in May, 1736. In
childhood he acquired the common elements of education, and some
knowledge of Latin and mathematics, and was not the ignorant youth that
some of his admirers delight in representing him. But he was exceedingly
fond of hunting and fishing, and would often spend the hours in this
way, that might have been devoted to more useful employment. But he
became a great day dreamer, thus at once revealing and exercising the
unbounded imagination he possessed. He loved to wander alone, that he
might give full play to the visions and reveries that floated through
his brain.

When about fourteen, he heard the celebrated Presbyterian minister,
Samuel Davies. His eloquence was the most powerful that Henry had
hitherto enjoyed, and awakened in him a spirit of emulation. All his
life Henry delighted to do him honor, and attributed the bent of his own
mind to oratory and a large measure of his success to this man.

In business, the future statesman was uniformly most unsuccessful. He
twice failed as a storekeeper, and once as a farmer. But all this time
he was really studying for his future profession. He was fond of talk,
and by indulging in it freely doubtless improved his power of language.
He would relate long stories, and do it so well that those who thronged
his counter took as little note of time as he did, and yielded their
hearts as fully to him as larger audiences did afterward.

As a last resort he studied law, but for a time his success was no
better in this than in his previous occupations. But after two or three
years, during which he lived without practice, and in a dependent
condition, he was retained in what seemed merely a nominal capacity—as
defendant in the noted “Parsons case.” The preachers of the established
church were paid so many pounds of tobacco per annum. But when the price
arose, in a time of scarcity, the Legislature passed an act allowing all
persons to pay their assessment in money at the rate of 2d per pound,
which was much less than it was worth at that time. After an interval
this law was declared void by the king and his council. Then the clergy
instituted suit to recover what they had lost during the time the act
was enforced. There was no doubt of the legality of their claim,
although more of its intrinsic rightfulness, and the law question was
decided in a test case, almost without controversy. This really
surrendered the whole matter, and the only issue then was as to the
amount of damage they had sustained—a very plain question, apparently
affording no room for argument by the defense.

A vast array of the clergy were present, and on the bench was Henry’s
own father. No circumstances could be imagined more unfavorable for the
maiden speech of a young lawyer. The case for the plaintiff was clearly
and forcibly stated by a leading member of the bar, and Henry began his
reply. It is no wonder that he faltered, and that his sentences were
awkward and confused. The people, who were present in great numbers, and
who were intensely hostile to the preachers, hung their heads, and gave
up the contest. The father of the speaker was shame-faced and dismayed.
The preachers smiled in derision, and exchanged congratulatory glances.
But it was too soon. The power of eloquence began to assert itself. The
strong mind of Henry mastered all embarrassment, and was brought to
bear, with irresistible force, upon his subject, and upon those around.
All eyes were drawn to the almost unknown speaker. His rusticity of
manner had disappeared; his form became erect, and his piercing eyes
shot forth lightning. “A mysterious and almost supernatural
transformation of appearance” passed over him. Every pulse beat
responsive to his, and throbbed with his own mighty indignation. He
turned his withering invective upon the clergy, speaking of their
greediness, oppression, and meanness, until they fled from the court.
Spectators say that their blood ran cold and their hair stood on end!
When he concluded, the jury in an instant brought judgment for one penny
damages! a new trial was refused, and the young but unparalleled orator
was borne away in triumph by the shouting multitude.

His first appearance in the house of Burgesses was not less brilliant,
and far more important in its results. The majority of the Assembly
seemed to be bent on new petitions and remonstrances against the
oppression of England, when Henry introduced his celebrated resolutions,
declaring in plain phrases that the acts complained of were
unconstitutional and void. This, which was little short of a declaration
of war, was received, even by well-meaning patriots, with a storm of
opposition. A most bitter debate followed. Henry at first stood almost
alone, with the wealth and talent of the Assembly arrayed against him.
But his clear conviction, determined will, and powerful eloquence turned
the scale, and the resolutions passed, committing Virginia to the cause
of resistance.

When Henry attended the first Congress he found an array of men, whose
fame was already becoming world-wide. But he soon won his way to the
very highest rank among them, and maintained it to the close. His
extraordinary eloquence excited the same astonishment on this broader
field, as in the seclusion of the Virginia hills. It was “Shakespeare
and Garrick combined.” When he took his seat after his opening speech,
the first speech that had broken the silence of the great assembly,
there was no longer a doubt that he was the greatest orator in America,
and probably in the world. This pre-eminence he maintained all through
the exciting struggle. His voice was ever like an inspiration, and the
people looked up to him almost as a prophet.

His vast power remained until the close of his life. The last great
speech, made in a contest with John Randolph, when he was nearly seventy
years of age, and only three months before his death, was equal to any
of his former efforts. “The sun had set in all its glory.”

These few sketches will sufficiently illustrate the eloquence of this
wonderful man. It only remains to state what is known in regard to his
methods of preparation. He never wrote. His mightiest efforts were made
in situations where the use of the pen would have been impossible. The
Virginia resolutions were written on a blank leaf in a law book, and
during the whole of the terrible debate which followed, he was ever
ready, and mastered all opponents. He thought much, but wrote little. He
spoke only on great occasions, while in political life, but gave
attention to all that was passing, and by keen observation learned the
characters of those upon whose minds he wrought. Thus he was prepared to
drive every word home to its mark. He was a great student of history,
and this knowledge doubtless contributed very greatly to the clearness
and precision of his views upon the great struggle in which the country
was engaged, as well as gave him an ample fund of illustration in his
speeches. Study of character and of history, cultivation of the power of
narration and of language, seem to have been the means by which his
wonderful natural genius was fitted for its triumphs.

                           GEORGE WHITEFIELD.

Few men of any age have been instrumental in accomplishing more good
than the subject of our present sketch. Without deep logical powers, and
with little claim to originality of thought, he chained vast multitudes
by his eloquence, and was one of the foremost actors in a mighty
religious movement.

None of the converts Whitefield gathered into the church ever passed
through a more strongly marked experience in personal religion than he
did. The agony of conviction he underwent was terrible, and he struggled
long and desperately before he obtained peace. “God only knows,” he
exclaims, “how many nights I have lain upon my bed groaning under what I
felt. Whole days and weeks have I spent in lying prostrate on the
ground, in silent or vocal prayer.” His mind almost failed under the
violence of his mental conflicts, and he endeavored, by wearing the
meanest apparel, and almost continual fasting, and many works of
self-mortification to find relief. But all this was in vain. We see in
it an indication of the terrible earnestness and sincerity of the
man—qualities which never passed away from him. These months of vivid
emotion affected his whole life, and imparted an intensity to his
pictures of sin, and a vividness to his realization of its horrors, that
he never would have had otherwise.

At last his health gave way beneath the pressure of his spiritual
trials, and he fell into a long sickness. At the end of seven weeks he
found peace, and his raptures became as great as the horrors of
conscience had been. “But oh! with what joy, joy unspeakable, even joy
that was full of glory, was my soul filled, when the weight of sin went
off, and an abiding sense of the love of God and a full assurance of
faith broke in upon my disconsolate soul.” This rapturous experience
continued with few interruptions through life, and really formed the
spring of his wonderful exertions. For thirty-four years his soul glowed
in all the fervors that he had experienced at his first conversion, and
he put forth his great strength in unwearied efforts to bring others to
the same blessed enjoyment.

His career opened with wonderful brilliancy. The first sermon preached
after his ordination as deacon, was said to “have driven fifteen persons
mad,”—a kind of madness that soon became common in England. Everywhere
the people flocked to hear him in crowds, and soon no church would
contain the multitude, even when they were opened for him. Once, when
preaching with “great freedom of heart and clearness of voice,” with
thousands of persons standing outside of the church, after hundreds had
gone away for want of room, he was struck with the thought of preaching
the word in the open air. Friends discouraged, but the die was soon
cast, and from that time forward his mightiest triumphs were won in
imitation of his Master, “who had a mountain for His pulpit, and the
heavens for a sounding board!” This was the proper theater for the
display of his wonderful power, and his spirit felt the beauty and
grandeur of the scene. Sometimes as many as twenty thousand people were
gathered together.

The theater of his most marvelous triumphs was at Moorfields during the
Whitsun holidays. The lowest class of London population was then poured
forth, and the most riotous scenes enacted. He resolved to begin early,
in order to secure the field before the greatest rush of the crowd. Ten
thousand people were gathered impatiently waiting for the sports of the
day. “He had for once got the start of the devil,” and soon drew the
multitude around him. At noon he tried again. The odds against him were
greater. Between twenty and thirty thousand people were present, and
shows, exhibitors, and players were all busy. He shouted his text,
“Great is Diana of the Ephesians,” and began the battle. It was waged
fiercely, and stones, dirt, and rotten eggs, with every other means of
annoyance, were brought to bear on the steadfast preacher. “My soul,” he
says, “was among lions.” But soon his wonderful power transformed the
multitude into lambs.

At night he renewed the assault on the stronghold of the adversary.
Thousands had been added to the throng, and their leaders, who had lost
much of their day’s gain by his preaching, were determined to endure it
no longer. A harlequin attempted to strike him with a whip but failed. A
recruiting sergeant, with many followers, and with drum and fife, made
the next effort. But Whitefield called to the people to make way for the
king’s officer, and the people yielded before, and closed up behind him,
until he was in this manner conducted harmlessly out of the crowd. Next,
a large number combined together, and taking hold of a long pole charged
furiously on the assembly, roaring like beasts. But they too were
foiled, and threw down the pole, many of them joining the hearers. At
times the tumult rose like the noise of many waters, drowning the voice
of the preacher, who would then resort to singing, until silence
returned. He kept the field to the last, and gathered mighty spoil into
his Tabernacle that night.

Very different were the sermons he preached at the mansion of Lady
Huntingdon, but they were marked by the same power. Courtiers and
noblemen joined in praising him, and Hume declared that he would go
twenty miles to hear him. No one seemed to be impervious to his
wonderful eloquence, and even in this selected circle he gathered
trophies of the Cross.

He passed and repassed from England to America several times, and was
everywhere as a flame of fire. The languid zeal of lukewarm churches was
revived, and the careless and immoral led into new lives. He was soon
looked up to as an apostle by thousands who dated their first religious
impressions from the time when they listened to his fervid words. But
opposition was not wanting, and once he very nearly received the crown
of martyrdom.

After he had finished preaching in Dublin, he was attacked by an immense
mob of infuriated Papists. His friends fled for their lives, and left
him to the mercy of the rioters. Stones from every direction struck him,
until he was breathless and dripping with blood. He found a momentary
refuge, when almost at the point of death, but the inmates of the house
which he had entered, fearing it would be demolished, entreated him to
leave. He was offered a disguise, but refused it, and in his proper
dress passed through whole streets of threatening Papists, and as soon
as he had reached a place of safety, and had his wounds dressed, began
to preach again!

Thus year after year passed, crowded full of labors. He considered it an
indication of great feebleness that for a short time he could only
preach one sermon a day. Thousands in Europe and America called him
blessed, and everywhere countless multitudes crowded to hear him speak
of the grace of God. For the lifetime of an ordinary generation his
unequaled power and untiring labor continued. After speaking he
frequently vomited great quantities of blood, which he regarded as
relieving his over-taxed lungs.

His death was romantic and beautiful, as befitted such a life. There are
few more touching, and yet more happy in the records of biography.

He preached his last field sermon at Exeter. It was continued for two
hours, and was among his most powerful efforts. He reached Newburyport,
Mass., the same evening, where he intended to preach the next day. While
at supper, the pavement, and the hall of the house where he sat, were
crowded with people impatient to hear the wonderful orator. But he was
exhausted, and said to one of the clergymen who accompanied him,
“Brother, you must speak to these dear people; I cannot say a word.” He
took a candle and started for his room, but before he reached it, his
generous heart reproached him for even seeming to desert the people who
were hungering for the bread of life. He paused on the stairway, while
the piece of candle he had taken when he started cast its flickering
light on the crowd below, and began to speak. The people gazed with
tearful awe and affection on his venerable form. His musical and
pathetic voice flowed on in words of tenderness and exhortation until
the candle went out in its socket. Before the morning he was dead!

His remembrance did not die with him. Europe and America vied together
in mourning for him, and Methodists, Churchmen, and Dissenters revered
him as a departed prophet.

What was the secret of his unparalleled power with the people? Clearly
its spring was his own profound and overwhelming emotions. It is
sometimes thought that his almost perfect elocution explains the
fascination he exerted, but it does not. He is classed by many as one
who committed and recited his discourses. But it may be safely assumed
that he could not have commanded one tithe of his success in that
manner. He may have done this at the beginning of his career, before his
marvelous genius was fully developed, but not after. It is indeed given
as a reason of his embarrassment when he began to preach in the open
air, that he had not long been accustomed to preach extempore. He says
that often, in his own apprehension, he had not a word to say either to
God or man. Think of a person who has a fully committed sermon, making
such an assertion, and afterwards thanking God for giving him words and

The very best possible evidence that his sermons took their external
form at the moment, was that he complained of the reports that were made
of them. If they had been written before preaching, he would have had
the means of making these as perfect as desired. Yet he repeated sermons
on particular subjects very often. Foote and Garrick estimated that they
improved up to the thirtieth and fortieth repetition. Going over the
same ground so often, many striking phrases would doubtless fix
themselves in his mind, but he would still be free to introduce new
matters as he wished. His illustrations, too, many of which were
gathered from his own wide experience, would be given in nearly the same
manner on successive occasions. But he was a fine talker, and by his
unlimited practice in speech improved the power of language to such an
extent that it was fully capable of expressing the ocean of feeling that
flowed in his soul. His published sermons show few traces of the pen,
but bear every mark of impassioned utterance. Untroubled by doubt, all
that he preached was felt to be present reality. He was a pure and holy
man, moved by the Spirit to the work he entered on, and endowed with a
heart of fire, a soul of love, and a power of expression such as is
given to few mortals. No wonder that the multitude felt him to be little
less than inspired.

                              JOHN WESLEY.

Both Henry and Whitefield were men of such vast genius as to be lifted
above ordinary rules. When we look upon them we feel imitation to be
almost hopeless. But we will give an instance of an altogether different
kind, and thus show how easily unwritten speech may be the medium of
every species of address. John Wesley was not an impassioned or
impetuous orator, and yet he wielded an almost boundless influence. He
was fluent and easy in his language, but exact and logical, leaving no
careless word on which an enemy might seize. Yet his power was great,
and even the scenes of excitement that marked the preaching of
Whitefield, and other early Methodists, were even surpassed under his
clear calm words.

We have no intention of sketching the life and great achievements of
Wesley, but will only consider a few events that bear on his character
as a preacher. Before he found peace in believing, which he did not
until he had preached for years, his sermons were not characterized by
any extraordinary power. They were strong, clear, fluent, and no more.
But after his return from his final voyage to America, there was a great
change. The external characteristics remained nearly the same, but the
fervor and power of the spirit that breathed through his mildest words,
soon produced the opposite effects of exciting bitter enmity and of
drawing the hearts of the people toward him. It mattered not what the
nature of his congregations might be, there was something in his manner
and words adapted to all. He began field preaching about the same time
that Whitefield did, and sometimes gathered as many as twenty thousand
into one congregation. While he spoke the whole assembly was often
bathed in tears, and frequently many fell down as dead. He gathered
those who were convinced by his preaching into societies, and these soon
spread over the whole country. He was thus required to exercise more
authority in caring for them than any bishop of the Established Church.
For upwards of fifty years he averaged fifteen sermons a week.

Although Wesley was the founder of Methodism, yet he differed widely
from the typical Methodist preachers. He dressed neatly, was most
courteous and polished in manners, graceful in the pulpit, and
considered violent exertions of the voice or furious gesticulation to be
little less than sin. His published sermons are models of thoughtful
analysis, close reasoning, and orderly arrangement. Yet he always spoke
without manuscript and without memorizing.

Wesley would certainly have been justified, if any person ever was, in
reading his discourses. For he was surrounded by those who had been led
into the way of life by him, and who treasured up every word that fell
from his lips, while on the other hand, unscrupulous enemies
misrepresented him continually, and sought for occasion to accuse him of
teaching pernicious doctrine. Yet amid such ceaseless preaching, he was
always able to command the very words to express his ideas, and was
never compelled to retract an unguarded sentence. The volumes of sermons
which he published are to be regarded as mere abstracts of his teaching,
recorded for the benefit of his societies, and not as the very words he
used upon particular occasions. In his later years he came before the
people, as a father instructing his children, and imparted to them the
weighty truths he thought they ought to know, in all simplicity, and
without the slightest care for outward ornament or word-nicety.

                             SIDNEY SMITH.

This eccentric, whole-souled, humorous, and eloquent clergyman was born
in 1771, and died in 1835. He graduated at Oxford, received a
fellowship, worth five hundred dollars a year, and thought to study law,
but at the instance of his father, changed his mind and entered the
Church. In connection with three others he started the _Edinburgh
Review_, and for years contributed sparkling articles that did much to
establish its reputation and popularity. He also became known to a wide
circle for his brilliant conversational powers, and, like so many
extempore speakers, took great delight in this most pleasant means of

At first his preferment in the Church was slow, but his favor with the
people was undoubtful. While he preached in London large and fashionable
audiences were drawn wherever he officiated.

Finally he was presented with an obscure country living, and after some
delay went to it. It was a desolate place, far away from all the centers
of intellectual life, and previous incumbents had resided away from it
for more than a century. He says, “When I began to thump the cushion of
my pulpit, on first coming to Foston, as is my wont when I preach, the
accumulated dust of one hundred and fifty years, made such a cloud that
for some minutes I lost sight of my congregation.”

He soon made a change for the better in all the affairs of the parish;
built an ugly but comfortable parsonage, and won the devoted affection
of his people. He passed much of his time in literary avocations, and
after fourteen years, received preferment to more desirable churches.
During the remainder of his life he used his pen so as to greatly
increase his already wide reputation, and became still more noted as a
preacher. He was very witty, and cared little for the common rules of
sermonizing, but had a power and earnestness that compensated for every
defect. The following extract will indicate his method of preparation:

  “Pulpit discourses have insensibly dwindled from speaking to
  reading; a practice which of itself is sufficient to stifle every
  germ of eloquence. It is only by the fresh feelings of the heart
  that mankind can be very powerfully affected. What can be more
  ludicrous than an orator delivering stale indignation and fervor a
  week old; turning over whole pages of violent passions, written out
  in goodly text; _reading_ the tropes and apostrophes into which he
  is hurried by the ardor of his mind; and so affected at a
  preconcerted line and page that he is unable to proceed any

                            F. W. ROBERTSON.

No minister of the present generation has lived a purer life, or left
the stamp of his thought more deeply on the public mind than the young
incumbent of Trinity Chapel in Brighton. His sermons, not published
until after his death, are meeting with an unparalleled sale, and every
scrap of his sermon preparation, no matter how fragmentary, is seized
for the press with the greatest avidity. He now addresses a far larger
and more important audience than ever during his life time.

F. W. Robertson was born in 1816 and died in 1853—only thirty-seven
years of age. He received the traditional English education at Oxford,
and had a strong inclination for the military profession. This he was
induced to renounce by the expressed judgment of his father—himself a
military officer—that Frederick was better fitted for the Church. After
he had received ordination, he acted as curate for twelve months at
Winchester. His health being by this time broken, he took a trip to the
continent under the advice of a physician. He was gone a year, and
during this time entered into marriage. When he returned he served for
four years in the parish of Cheltenham. Here the field for the exercise
of his talents was comparatively narrow; but many persons were led to a
higher life by his ministry—many more than he, with his habitual
self-depreciation, was willing to believe until years had passed. After
this he spent two months at St. Ebbs, in Oxford, receiving a miserably
small salary. During this short time his talents became known, and he
was offered the rich, aristocratic, and intellectual church at Brighton.
The offer was refused at first, and was only accepted at last through
the urgent solicitation of the Bishop, who felt that this was his proper
field. Here his popularity became unbounded. The working people, who had
almost deserted the Establishment, flocked to hear his bold, true words.
His biographer says:

  “His eloquence and originality could not fail to be marked. And if
  the congregation was intellectual he was pre-eminently so. The
  chapel became crowded. Sittings were scarcely ever to be had. For
  six years the enthusiasm never slackened: it grew and spread
  silently and steadily, and when he died broke out in a burst of
  universal sorrow.... But he put no faith in mere excitement, the
  eager upturned face, the still hush of attention. ‘What is
  ministerial success?’ he asks. ‘Crowded churches—full
  aisles—attentive congregation—the approval of the religious
  world—much impression produced? Elijah thought so; and when he found
  out his mistake, and discovered that the applause of Carmel subsided
  into hideous stillness, his heart well nigh broke with
  disappointment. Ministerial success lies in altered lives, and
  obedient humble hearts; unseen work recognized in the judgment

That success was his. James Anderson says:

  “I cannot count up conquests in any place or by any man so numerous
  and so vast—conquests achieved in so short a period, and in many
  instances over the hearts and consciences of those whom, from their
  age or pursuits, it is always most difficult to reach—as were the
  conquests of that devoted soldier of the cross of Christ.”

But his labors were too great for his strength. For at least two years
before his death he preached in continual pain, and yet there was no
abatement in his power. Many of the sermons by which he is best known
were then produced. We can scarcely realize as we read his calm
sentences, radiant with beauty, and full of profound thought, that they
were spoken during the ravages of a cerebral disease, that was soon to
still his eloquent voice forever. When he died, having preached almost
to the last, the city (containing sixty thousand inhabitants) was draped
in gloom, and mourning was universal. A monument was erected, to which
the working-men contributed a touching memorial.

The manner in which so many of Robertson’s sermons were preserved, is,
when we consider his manner of preaching, very remarkable. He spoke
extempore, and never wrote out a sermon before delivery. His leading
thoughts were indicated by short notes, and the whole subject was
carefully arranged in his own mind. But his words and his most powerful
illustrations sprang from the inspiration of the moment. Usually he took
a small piece of paper containing the headings of his thoughts with him
into the pulpit, but never referred to it after the first few moments
had passed. His sympathizing biographer thus describes him:

  “So entirely was his heart in his work, that in public speaking
  especially, he lost sight of everything but his subject. His
  self-consciousness vanished. He did not choose his words or think
  about his thoughts. He not only possessed, but was possessed by his
  idea; and when all was over and the reaction came, he had forgotten
  like a dream, words, illustrations, almost everything.... After some
  of his most earnest and passionate utterances, he has said to a
  friend: ‘Have I made a fool of myself?’

  “If the most conquering eloquence for the English people be that of
  the man who is all but mastered by his excitement, but who, at the
  very point of being mastered, masters himself—apparently cool, while
  he is at white heat—so as to make the audience glow with fire, and
  at the same time respect the self-possessed power of the orator—the
  man being always felt as greater than the man’s feelings—if that be
  the eloquence that most tells upon the English nation, he had that
  eloquence. He spoke under tremendous excitement, but it was
  excitement reined in by will. He held in his hand a small piece of
  paper with a few notes on it when he began. He referred to it now
  and then; but before ten minutes had gone by it was crushed to
  uselessness in his grasp; for he knit his fingers together over it,
  as he knit his words over thought. His gesture was subdued;
  sometimes a slow motion of his hand upward; sometimes bending
  forward, his hand drooping over the pulpit; sometimes erecting
  himself to his full height with a sudden motion, as if upraised by
  the power of the thought he spoke. His voice—a musical, low,
  penetrative voice—seldom rose; and when it did it was in a deep
  volume of sound which was not loud, but toned like a great bell. It
  thrilled also, but that was not so much from feeling as from the
  repression of feeling. Toward the close of his ministry he was wont
  to stand almost motionlessly erect in the pulpit, with his hands
  loosely lying by his side, or grasping his gown. His pale, thin face
  and tall, emaciated form, seeming, as he spoke, to be glowing as
  alabaster glows when lit up by an inward fire. And, indeed, brain
  and heart were on fire. He was being self-consumed. Every sermon in
  those latter days burned up a portion of his vital power.”

But though thus surrounded by an admiring congregation, and weekly
giving out thoughts that were worthy of still wider notice, when some of
his people, who realized that his words were too precious to die, raised
a subscription to employ a short-hand reporter, with a view to the
publication of his sermons, he refused to sanction the scheme, and wrote
the parties a characteristic letter, telling them that he had no time to
correct, and, without it, the discourses were not fit to be given to the
public. Yet a number were preserved in this way, and though not
published until after his death, they are almost faultless in form and
expression. Other sermons were written out briefly by himself, after
being preached, for the use of some private friends. It was thus that
those almost incomparable discourses were preserved, which are without
doubt the most valuable contribution that has been made to their
department of literature during the present century.

We will give two extracts showing the power that may be wielded over
language without the use of the pen. The first is from a speech made to
a workingman’s institute opposing the introduction of infidel works into
their library. He is speaking of the compassion that should be shown to
the honest doubter:

  “I do think that the way we treat that state is unpardonably cruel.
  It is an awful moment when the soul begins to find that the props on
  which it has blindly rested so long are many of them rotten, and
  begins to suspect them all; when it begins to feel the nothingness
  of many of the traditionary opinions which have been received with
  implicit confidence, and in that horrible insecurity begins also to
  doubt whether there be anything to believe at all. It is an awful
  hour—let him who has passed through it say how awful—when this life
  has lost its meaning, and seems shriveled into a span; when the
  grave appears to be the end of all, human goodness nothing but a
  name, and the sky above this universe a dead expanse, black with the
  void from which God Himself has disappeared. . . . I appeal (for the
  truth of the picture drawn) to the recollection of any man who has
  passed through that hour of agony, and stood upon the rock at last,
  the surges stilled below him, and the last cloud drifted from the
  sky above, with a faith, and hope, and trust, no longer traditional,
  but of his own, a trust which neither earth nor hell shall shake
  thenceforth for ever.”

The second passage we will quote is an illustration from a sermon on the
doubt of Thomas, showing how weak are all arguments for immortality,
except those that are exclusively Christian. He speaks of many things
that are valuable as suggestions, but worthless as proofs, and next
shows how the same suggestions may point the other way:

  “Six thousand years of human existence have passed away. Countless
  armies of the dead have set sail from the shores of time. No
  traveler has returned from the still land beyond. More than one
  hundred and fifty generations have done their work and sunk into the
  dust again, and still there is not a voice, there is not a whisper
  from the grave to tell us whether, indeed, those myriads are in
  existence still. Besides, why should they be? Talk as you will of
  the grandeur of man; why should it not be honor enough for him—more
  than enough to satisfy a thing so mean—to have had his twenty or
  seventy years life-rent of God’s universe? Why must such a thing,
  apart from proof, rise up and claim to himself an exclusive
  immortality? . . . Why may he not sink, after he has played his
  appointed part, into nothingness again? You see the leaves sinking
  one by one in autumn, till the heaps below are rich with the spoils
  of a whole year’s vegetation. They were bright and perfect while
  they lasted, each leaf a miracle of beauty and contrivance. There is
  no resurrection for the leaves—why should there be one for man? Go
  and stand, some summer evening, by the river side; you will see the
  May-fly sporting out its little hour in the dense masses of insect
  life, darkening the air a few feet above the gentle swell of the
  water. The heat of that very afternoon brought them into existence.
  Every gauze wing is traversed by ten thousand fibres, which defy the
  microscope to find a flaw in their perfection. The omniscience and
  the care bestowed upon that exquisite anatomy, one would think
  cannot be destined to be wasted in a moment. Yet so it is. When the
  sun has sunk below the trees its little life is done. Yesterday it
  was not; tomorrow it will not be. God has bidden it be happy for one
  evening. It has no right or claim to a second; and in the universe
  that marvelous life has appeared once and will appear no more. May
  not the race of man sink like the generations of the May-fly? Why
  cannot the Creator, so lavish in His resources, afford to annihilate
  souls as He annihilates insects? Would it not almost enhance His
  glory to believe it?”

Such language Robertson was able to employ without the use of the pen.
But the art was not attained without long and laborious toil. He
committed much—memorizing the whole Testament, both in English and
Greek, and storing his mind with innumerable gems from the poets. He
also studied the modern languages, particularly German, and delighted to
translate their treasure into his own tongue. He read much, but not
rapidly, dwelling upon a book until he could arrange the whole of its
contents with precision in his mind. Thus he attained an almost
unequalled mastery of both thought and language. If he had been required
to write every sermon, he could never have pursued such a thorough and
long continued course of cultivation, besides mastering such a vast
amount of knowledge.

We have dwelt less upon the general character of his preaching, with its
strong originality, than upon the beauty, force, and accuracy of his
language, because these are the qualities usually believed to be
unattainable without written composition. But it is safe to say, that in
these respects he has not been surpassed by any preacher ancient or

                              HENRY CLAY.

We will take Henry Clay as an example of the American political
eloquence of the last generation. He was one of a bright constellation
of great men—most of them, like himself, extemporaneous speakers. In
some respects he was, perhaps, superior to them all. His hold upon the
public mind was great, and even yet he is regarded with love and
reverence all over the Union. This, however, is not the result of his
genius alone. In some points his great rivals were more unfortunate than
himself. Calhoun’s influence was immense; but the effect of his teaching
has been so deadly that it is not to be wondered at if his fame is of an
equivocal kind. The badness of Webster’s private life, and his
unfortunate course on some great questions, caused his reputation to
decline, and his really great abilities to be undervalued. But the
genial, large-hearted orator of the West is still a favorite with the

Clay was a Virginian by birth. His father was a Baptist preacher, very
poor, who died when Henry was quite young, leaving a large family of
children. Henry obtained all his schooling, which was meager enough, in
a log school-house. The young boy was employed first as a clerk in a
store, and afterward as an assistant in a lawyer’s office. Next he
became an amanuensis to Chancellor Wythe, who treated him kindly and
gave him an opportunity to study law. Finally, he was admitted to the
bar, and removed to Kentucky. He immediately acquired practice, and met
with a hearty welcome from the rough backwoodsmen of that section. He
tells us how he acquired the ability to speak with fluency and power:

  “I owe my success in life to one simple fact, namely, that at an
  early age I commenced and continued for some years the practice of
  daily reading and speaking the contents of some historical or
  scientific book. These off-hand efforts were sometimes made in a
  corn-field; at others in the forest; and not unfrequently in some
  barn, with the horse and ox for my only auditors. It is to this
  early practice of the art of all arts that I am indebted for the
  primary and leading impulses that stimulated my progress and have
  shaped and molded my destiny.”

An amusing instance is given of Clay’s first attempt at debate. He was
so much embarrassed that he forgot where he was, and called the chairman
“Gentlemen of the Jury.” Yet when this difficulty had been overcome, he
soon made a powerful impression. In fact it was spoken of by some as not
inferior to any of the addresses in which he achieved a national fame.
The policy of emancipation was then under debate in Kentucky, and young
Clay gave it his full support. But although he had almost unbounded
influence on any other subject, the people of his State loved slavery
better than any man, and the measure was defeated.

The vast power of Clay as an orator was early displayed. When only
twenty-two years of age he, with another very able speaker, addressed a
popular meeting. While the other spoke there was great applause and
deafening acclamations, but Clay’s address was so much more thrilling
and effective, that the popular feeling became too deep for utterance,
and he closed amid unbroken silence. It was some moments before the
crowd recovered sufficiently to give vent, in thundering cheers, to the
emotion that he had kindled.

It is hardly necessary to follow the career of Clay through all the
years that were devoted to the public service, for the country is still
familiar with it. Many of the measures with which he was connected may
not meet our approval, but no one will question the honesty of his
motives, or the ability with which they were advocated. In Congress he
had scarcely a rival. Calhoun was equally active, and more logical, but
had not the magic of voice and eye, the nameless graces of delivery that
distinguished the Kentucky orator. Webster spoke more like a giant, but
was hard to call out in his full force, and on ordinary occasions did
not speak nearly as well as Clay. The voice of the latter was an
instrument of great power, and he well knew how to use it. “Nature,” he
said on one occasion, referring to an effort made years before, “had
singularly favored me by giving me a voice peculiarly adapted to produce
the effects I wished in public speaking. Now,” he added, “its melody is
changed, its sweetness gone.” These words were pronounced as if in
mockery, in tones of exquisite sweetness. One who had heard him often,

  “Mr. Clay’s voice has prodigious power, compass, and richness; all
  its variations are captivating, but some of its base tones thrill
  through one’s whole fame. To those who have never heard the living
  melody, no verbal description can convey an adequate idea of the
  diversified effects of those intonations which, in one strain of
  sentiment, fall in whispering gentleness like the first words of
  love upon a maiden’s lips, and anon in sterner utterances ring with
  the maddening music of the main.”

A gentleman who witnessed an oratorical encounter between Clay and
Webster describes it as inconceivably grand:

  “The eloquence of Mr. Webster was the majestic roar of a strong and
  steady blast pealing through the forest; but that of Mr. Clay was
  the tone of a god-like instrument, sometimes visited by an angel
  touch, and swept anon by all the fury of the raging elements.”

Clay, Webster and Calhoun were all extempore speakers. Webster sometimes
prepared very elaborately, but never confined himself to his
preparation. And some of his very best efforts were made on the spur of
the moment when circumstances conspired to arouse his vast but somewhat
sluggish genius. Both the others prepared their discourses in thought
alone, and those who were obliged to rely on their manuscripts or their
memories stood no chance at all with them in the fiery debates through
which they passed.

                            HENRY B. BASCOM.

It may be doubted whether the late Bishop Bascom is properly classed
among extempore preachers. His mode of preparation certainly bordered on
the memoriter plan. But he did not write. He would first construct a
skeleton, usually very simple, and then throw each point into words
mentally. His memory was very great, and the fine expressions he coined,
as he rode through the forest or meditated in his study, were impressed
on his mind so strongly as to be recalled afterward. It was a common
practice with him to repeat his sermons over and over again to himself,
till every line of thought and every strong expression became perfectly
familiar. Bascom once stopped at a backwoodsman’s house, and left it to
take a short walk. Soon a neighbor came rushing in, declaring that he
had seen a crazy man walking back and forth on the edge of the woods,
swinging his arms wildly, and muttering to himself in a strange manner.
The neighbor was told not to be alarmed, but to come to church the next
day and he would see the crazy man again. He did so, and listened to
strains of eloquence as admirable as ever charmed his ear.

The sermons which were thus prepared, were preached a great number of
times, and each time reviewed and improved. Bascom traveled a vast
extent of country, and the sermons which thus combined all the strength
of his really powerful mind, for years together, soon became famous.
Probably no preacher ever did so much with so few discourses.

His delivery was wonderful. Henry Clay, who was well qualified to judge,
pronounced him the finest natural orator he had ever heard. His form was
almost perfect, his carriage noble and graceful, every movement light
and springy, so that, as some of his hearers have declared, “he scarcely
seemed to touch the ground.” He dressed with great taste, and on this
account was often objected to by the early Methodists, and came very
nearly being refused admission into his Conference. But he soon became a
general favorite with the people, who would throng to hear him from the
whole country for miles around. When he entered the pulpit he seemed
nearly borne down by the weight of his accumulations, and it was only
after he had begun to make headway that he became easy and
self-possessed. Then he poured forth torrent after torrent of highly
wrought eloquence, until the hearers were lost in admiration of the vast
powers he displayed.

A very partial biographer considers it as very strange that he took but
little part in any Conference discussions, or debates on general topics.
The truth is, that with his mode of preparation, carried as far as he
carried it, he could not. There was no time to forecast his sentences,
and slowly build up a gorgeous fabric, and he therefore remained silent.

He had a mighty imagination, and could so represent any object he
undertook so describe, that it would live before the eyes of his
hearers. But he cared so much for beauty that he wandered too far from
his way to seek it, and the consequence was that the object of his

                   ——“Passed in music out of sight,”

and his hearers after recovering from their rapture and astonishment
remained as they were before. He drew vast audiences together, wrought
effectually for the building up of some colleges, collected much money
for various agencies, was made a Bishop of the M. E. Church, South, in
compliment to his eloquence, but in real work was far inferior to many a
Methodist minister whose name is unknown to fame.

                           JOHN SUMMERFIELD.

The eloquence of the good and noble, but early fallen Summerfield was in
sharp contrast with that of Bascom. A lady who had heard them both, gave
the preference, in some neat verses, to the latter, on the ground that
he was more grand, awe-inspiring, and tempest-like. The melody and
pathos of Summerfield she compared to the mild zephyr, and thought this
was necessarily inferior to the earth-shaking storm. But the world has
not agreed with her. Bascom held assembled thousands for hours beneath
the charm of his voice, weeping, smiling, or shouting, at his will. Yet
when all had passed, and the spell had been dissolved, the only
impression that remained was one of simple wonder. The man and his own
eloquence had risen so far above the subject he was to enunciate that
the latter faded from the mind. More earnestness for truth and sympathy
with it, would have enhanced his real power a hundredfold.

But it was very different with Summerfield. His soul was full of
earnestness, and he moved in an atmosphere of tenderness and pathos. The
eloquence of the great Whitefield might be compared to the whirlwind,
prostrating everything in its path; that of Bascom to an iceberg glowing
in the rays of the morning sun, displaying a thousand colors, but cold
and impassive; and that of Summerfield to the light of the sun, calm and
genial, shining on fields of green, filling the air with life and light.
His speech was simple, easy, and unadorned, flowing right out of his own
heart, and awakening an answering echo in the hearts of all who heard.
The sermons which he has left are mere fragments—sketches such as he
employed in his preparation, and of course give no idea of the real
power he wielded.

Stevens thus describes his method of preparation:

  “Though in the delivery of his sermons there was this
  facility—felicity we might call it—in their preparation he was a
  laborious student. He was a hearty advocate of extempore preaching,
  and would have been deprived of most of his popular power in the
  pulpit by being confined to a manuscript; yet he knew the importance
  of study, and particularly of the habitual use of the pen in order
  to success in extemporaneous speaking. His own rule was to prepare a
  skeleton of his sermon, and after preaching it, write it out in
  fuller detail, filling up the original sketch with the principal
  thoughts which had occurred to him in the process of the discourse.
  The first outline was, however, in accordance with the rule we have
  elsewhere given for extempore speaking, viz., that the perspective
  of the entire discourse—the leading ideas, from the exordium to the
  peroration—should be noted on the manuscript, so that the speaker
  shall have the assurance that he is supplied with a consecutive
  series of good ideas, good enough to command the respect of his
  audience, though he should fail of any very important impromptu
  thoughts. This rule we deem the most essential condition of success
  in extemporaneous preaching. It is the best guarantee of that
  confidence and self-possession upon which depends the command of
  both thought and language. Summerfield followed it even in his
  platform speeches. Montgomery notices the minuteness of his
  preparations in nearly two hundred manuscript sketches.”

This great man died at the very early age of twenty-seven, having
preached seven years. But from the very first he produced a profound
impression. Dr. Bethune thus describes one of his earliest efforts in
this country. He was then scarcely known. It was at an anniversary of
the Bible Society, and an able man had just spoken with great

  “The chair announced the Rev. Mr. Summerfield, from England. ‘What
  presumption!’ said my clerical neighbor; ‘a boy like that to be set
  up after a giant!’ But the stripling came in the name of the God of
  Israel, armed with ‘a few smooth stones from the brook’ that flows
  ‘hard by the oracles of God.’ His motion was one of thanks to the
  officers of the society for their labors during the year; and of
  course he had to allude to the president, then reposing in another
  part of the house; and thus he did it: ‘When I saw that venerable
  man, too aged to warrant the hope of being with you at another
  anniversary, _he reminded me of Jacob leaning upon the top of his
  staff, blessing his children before he departed_.’ He then passed on
  to encourage the society by the example of the British institution.
  ‘When we first launched our untried vessel upon the deep, the storms
  of opposition roared, and the waves dashed angrily around us, and we
  had hard work to keep her head to the wind. We were faint with
  rowing, and our strength would soon have been gone, but we cried,
  ‘Lord, save us, or we perish!’ _Then a light shone upon the waters,
  and we saw a form walking upon the troubled sea, like unto that of
  the Son of God, and he drew near the ship, and we knew that it was
  Jesus; and he stepped upon the deck, and laid his hand upon the
  helm, and he said unto the winds and waves, Peace, be still, and
  there was a great calm._ Let not the friends of the Bible fear; God
  is in the midst of us. God shall help us, and that right early.’ In
  such a strain he went on to the close. ‘Wonderful! wonderful!’ said
  my neighbor the critic; ‘he talks like an angel from heaven.’”

                            C. H. SPURGEON.

No minister now living has been heard by so many people in the same
number of years, or has been the subject of so much controversy as
Spurgeon. The great populace of London has been moved to its depths by
his preaching, and he has met with the same enthusiastic reception
wherever he has preached. He is yet very young—only thirty-four years of
age—and had become celebrated before he was twenty-one. Such speedy
recognition is certainly a proof of great merit, and his example is well
worth our attention.

Spurgeon’s parents were poor but respectable—his father and grandfather
being Independent ministers. He early felt it his duty to preach, and
even when a child was accustomed to preach to his playmates. His father
wished him to go to college to qualify himself for the work in regular
form, but after giving the matter careful consideration he declined.
Even when he became usher at Cambridge, and began to preach
occasionally, he refused the tempting offer of a college course, and
gave it as his opinion that he was called to go to the work at once, and
not to waste years in preparation. We can hardly tell what effect a long
course of training, that would have allowed time for his fervid zeal to
cool, would have had upon his after life. About the same time he left
the church of his fathers and united with the Baptists, believing that
immersion was the proper baptism. His occasional ministrations were
marked by modesty and good sense, as well as loving earnestness.

He was soon called to take charge of an old, but decayed church in
London. Its forlorn condition did not dismay him, and under his vigorous
care and mighty preaching the congregation became overflowing. The
building was enlarged, but the congregation grew still larger. Immense
public halls were taken, and these too were soon overflowed. His
congregation built a new church of extraordinary size, which has been
packed full on each preaching occasion ever since. Several volumes of
his sermons have been published, and have met with a ready sale. He
preaches nearly a sermon a day, corresponds with a newspaper, writes
books, superintends a ministerial school, speaks for and aids a number
of charitable institutions—altogether performing more labor than perhaps
any other preacher of our day. Yet these multiform labors are performed
with such ease and certainty that he hardly ever appears tired, and
gives no indication of breaking down.

What is the secret of the power by which this man has reached the hearts
of the poor more fully than any other man for many years? It is admitted
on all hands that he is not a man of profound intellect. There is no
trace of unusual powers of thought either in his published or spoken
sermons. But there is a more than ordinary force of arrangement,
illustration and expression. He may not be in the first class of great
men, but he is surely foremost in the second class. He also possesses
wonderful enthusiasm. His faith is too clear for a doubt, and he is
never troubled with any misgivings regarding his own power of presenting
the truth. Confidence is a part of his nature, and enables him to bear
unmoved any amount of opposition, and, while preaching, to follow out
any suggestions of his genius. His power of language is very great. From
beginning to end of his discourse he never falters, nor uses the wrong
word. His voice is strong, clear, and melodious, making the tritest
thought interesting. But above all, he is a good man, and works solely
for the good of his hearers. This is the reason why he is not
intoxicated by his great success. He feels that the Holy Spirit labors
with him, and that the blessing of God rests upon him.

Spurgeon is an extempore preacher in the best sense of the word. He
studies and meditates as fully as his time will permit, and at any
period is ready to give what he thus masters to the public. “I can’t
make out,” said a minister to him, “when you study, Brother Spurgeon.
When _do_ you make your sermons?” “Oh!” he replied, “I am always
studying—I am sucking in something from everything. If you were to ask
me home to dine with you, I should suck a sermon out of you.” One who
had known him, thus writes:

  “With respect to his habits of composition, he assured us that not
  one word of his sermons is written before delivery, and that the
  only use he makes of his pen upon them is to correct the errors of
  the stenographer. His happy faculty of mere mental composition, and
  of remembering what he thus composes, saves him much time and
  drudgery. He can exercise it anywhere; but probably with more
  success in the pulpit, while he is giving utterance to what he has
  prearranged in his mind. Learning not to read manuscript out of the
  pulpit is the best preparation for not reading it in the pulpit, and
  he who in his study can think well, independently of it, will, in
  the pulpit, think better without it; for the excitement occasioned
  by speaking what he has premeditated—if that excitement does not
  produce too deep feeling—will summon new thoughts to fill up the old
  ranks, and lead whole divisions of fresh recruits into the field.”

The almost irresistible attraction of Spurgeon’s ministrations may be
inferred from the following facts:

  “It was no unusual sight on a Sunday evening to see placards put up
  outside of the building (Exeter Hall) announcing that it was full,
  and that no more could be admitted. In his own church it has been
  found necessary for the police to be present at every service, and
  the pew-holders are admitted by ticket through a side door. This
  accomplished, at ten minutes prior to the commencement of the
  service, the doors are opened and a rush commences; but it is
  speedily over, for the chapel is full—not only the seats but every
  inch of standing-room being occupied, and the gates have to be
  closed, with an immense crowd of disappointed expectant hearers
  outside. The church has, indeed, reason to be deeply grateful that
  amid the vice and immorality of London, a voice so clear and loud
  has been lifted up for the cause of the Redeemer.”

                          HENRY WARD BEECHER.

Perhaps no American minister has ever become so well known to the whole
body of the people as Henry Ward Beecher. He has been bitterly
criticised and opposed even by members of his own denomination, but has
triumphed over every attack, and won a proud place among preachers. He
has even become a power in the political world, and his devotion to the
cause of liberty has endeared him to thousands who might otherwise have
never heard his name.

This great orator was born in 1813 in the State of Connecticut. His
father, Lyman Beecher, was a clergyman of great force and celebrity.
Young Beecher graduated at Amherst College at twenty-one, and studied
theology with his father at Lane Seminary, Cincinnati. When this was
concluded, he was first settled over a small Presbyterian church at
Lawrenceburg, Ind., where he remained two years, and then removed to
Indianapolis, and preached eight years with great acceptance. His first
sermon was so earnest and powerful that it led to the conversion of
twelve persons. A course of lectures, which he gave during this period
to young men, attracted great attention, and he was soon after called to
take charge of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. It was then a feeble
organization; but under his care has increased to vast proportions. It
has now a membership of 1,700, and the largest regular congregation by
far of any church in the land. The income of the church from the rent of
pews is nearly $41,000!

As a lecturer, Beecher stands among the very first. He speaks every
year, in nearly every prominent city of the Union, and thus contributes
powerfully to the success of the various reforms he advocates. He early
gave the anti-slavery movement the support of his powerful eloquence,
and preached and lectured against the great evil so effectually that no
man was more denounced and hated at the South than he.

In the heat of our civil contest he passed some months in England, and
there spoke for the cause of liberty and Union. He met with the most
embittered opposition; the rabble, who had been incited by handbills to
come out and put him down, often roaring until his voice could no longer
be heard. He would calmly watch them until the noise for a moment
subsided, and then speak again with such effect that the victory was
soon declared in his favor. No man contributed more powerfully to allay
the prejudice of England against our nation during her sore contest.

We do not wonder at the great popularity of Beecher. He possesses much
greater intellectual acuteness than Spurgeon, and is inferior in this
particular to no one of the orators of the present day. The variety of
topics he discusses is immense, and he brings such good sense and sound
logic to bear on them, that the people feel him to be a teacher indeed.
They go to hear him, expecting that he will apply high spiritual truth
to every day life, and are not disappointed.

Beecher is a giant in reasoning power, and gives no light, superficial
views of anything. His feelings are very acute, and by the mere force of
sympathy he has the smiles and tears of his audience at command. His
power of illustration is wonderful; the most abstruse subject grows
plain under the light of his luminous comparisons. While his command of
language is very great, and he never hesitates for a word, his taste is
so pure that he never uses an unnecessary or objectionable term. In
fact, he speaks for the press as much as for the congregation before
him. For years his sermons have been taken down by short-hand writers,
and read all over the world. Sometimes they do not even receive a final
correction from him. This is a convincing evidence of his marvelous
popularity. His sermons are first preached to a vast assembly, and then
spread before hundreds of thousands of readers. Not only newspapers of
his own denomination, but of others, count it a great attraction to be
able to announce a weekly or semi-monthly sermon from this gifted man.

On several occasions we were privileged to hear him, and will give some
account of the first time we listened to his eloquence. A large number
of people gathered long before the hour for service, and waited
impatiently for the opening of the door. Ten minutes before the hour the
crowd was admitted, and every vacant pew almost instantly filled. Then
seats were folded out from the ends of the pews into the aisles, and
these filled until the whole vast space was one dense mass of living
humanity; on the ground floor or in the second or third galleries there
was no unoccupied space. Many even then were forced to turn away from
the door. The preaching was plain, logical, deep, and clear rather than
brilliant. There was no florid imagery, but the light of imagination
gleamed through the whole discourse. The subject was naturally analyzed,
every part powerfully illustrated, and the application pungent enough to
reach every heart not entirely impervious. Several times a smile rippled
over the faces of the congregation, but lasted only for a moment, and
was generally the prelude for some deep and solemn impression.

Beecher prepares his discourses with care, but neither memorizes nor
reads them. On one occasion we noticed him lay his manuscript on the
desk before him and begin to read. The description was beautiful, but
the congregation seemed indifferent, and gave no evidence of close
attention. Soon he pushed the paper away. Then every eye was bent upon
him with intensest interest.

Beecher’s ordinary lectures give but little indication of his real
power. They are written and read in the same form to numerous audiences.
But his genius finds free play only when the manuscript is abandoned.
Then, when he speaks for a cause in which his heart is enlisted, we have
an example of what mortal eloquence can be. We once heard him at a large
meeting which he had visited as a listener. A long and rather dull
speech had been made by the orator of the evening. But Beecher was seen,
recognized, and called out. Every murmur was stilled. Laughter and tears
succeeded each other with marvelous rapidity; but he closed by a daring
apostrophe, spoken in a low tone, that thrilled to every heart, and held
all spell-hound for some moments after he had ceased to speak! It seemed
the full realization of every dream of the might and power of eloquence.

                           ANNA E. DICKINSON.

This lady was born in 1842, and while quite young became celebrated as a
public speaker. She has not won her present position by a single
brilliant effort, but by long continued exertions and the display of
solid talent. She is a member of the Society of Friends, and early
imbibed the hatred of oppression and slavery for which that denomination
is distinguished. Her principal public speeches have been given in the
service of freedom, and to secure a higher position and a wider range of
employments for women. Her own example, as well as her teachings, has
been one of great value to her sex.

When Miss Dickinson began to speak she had no powerful friends to aid,
and for a time her audiences were quite small. But she was too firm and
devoted to the cause she advocated to grow discouraged. And there was
something so attractive in her manner, that opposition was soon
overcome, and her audiences grew continually. She was so truthful,
earnest, elegant, and strong, that before she was twenty-one years of
age she was recognized as a power in the political world, and few voices
more eloquent than hers were lifted up on behalf of liberty and justice
during our civil war. She has also taken part in political canvassing
with great success. Her reputation as a lyceum lecturer is fully
established. In all the cities of the United States where she has spoken
large and enthusiastic audiences have greeted her.

In speaking, she is modest, graceful, and unconstrained, with an air and
manner of perfect naturalness. There is no elaborate ornament in her
words, but they are always well chosen, and flow with the utmost ease.
Her discourses are logical, and usually bear upon a single point with
overwhelming force. Without the slightest attempt at stage effect, she
frequently displays deep emotion, and becomes totally absorbed in her
subject. Her voice is full, clear, melodious, and perfectly distinct; it
is persuasive, well modulated, and equally capable of expressing pathos,
and scorn, and command.

With such abilities she cannot fail to be popular, and her influence,
which is always for good, is steadily widening. Yet in order to display
her full power, she requires a subject that enlists her sympathies, and
in a mere literary lecture, although always instructive, she does not
produce the same vivid impression as when roused by some injustice, or
pleading the cause of the oppressed and feeble.

The manner of preparation by which this lady, who takes rank with the
best of American orators, has acquired such power over words and hearts,
merits attention; in response to our inquiry, she says:

  “For the first three years of my public life, speaking, with me,
  was absolutely extempore; that is, I gave a general look over the
  field before I rose to my feet, then talked. Since then, I
  consider my subject—let it lie in my mind, and gather fresh
  thoughts—statistics—what not—almost unconsciously—as a stone
  gathers moss.

  “When I wish to make the speech, I arrange this mass in order and
  form—make a skeleton of it on paper, and leave the filling in till I
  reach the platform—then some things I have thought of are omitted,
  and others thought of at the time, are substituted. The speech
  changes here and there for some time, and then gradually
  crystalizes—that is all. I mean, of course, what is called a regular
  lyceum speech. The political speeches are made very much on my old

                            JOHN A. BINGHAM.

We selected one American political orator of the generation that has
just gone by as a specimen of the capabilities of extempore speech, and
will now give an instance of the present. The speaker we have chosen is
widely known. Many have listened to his eloquent words, and in the
stormy events of the last few years, his name has become a household
word. We make this choice the more readily because the character of
eloquence for which Bingham is noted, is that which many persons suppose
to be most incompatible with a spontaneous selection of words—beauteous,
elegant, melodious, and highly adorned.

Bingham graduated, was admitted to the bar, and speedily became a
successful lawyer. He also turned his attention to political affairs,
and became known as a most efficient public canvasser for the doctrines
of the party with which he acted. This is one of the best schools in the
world for ready and vigorous speech, but has a tendency to produce
carelessness of expression, and to substitute smartness for logic and
principle. This tendency he successfully resisted, and became
distinguished for the deep moral tone, as well as for the beauty of the
language of his addresses. He was elected to Congress from an Ohio
district, and become known as one of the most eloquent members of that
body. He took a prominent part in the opposition to the Kansas and
Nebraska bill, and met the entire approval of the people. When the
Southern States commenced to secede in the winter of 1860–61 he brought
forward a force bill to compel them to submit to national authority.
This was defeated by those who thought that other means would avail.
Time proved the wisdom of his views.

All through the contest that followed, his voice was heard on the side
of liberty and Union. He soon became known as one of the leaders of the
Republican party, and has nobly held that position to the date of

Mr. Bingham, in speaking, is calm, clear and pointed. His manner
indicates confidence, and his words flow freely. Imagination is allowed
full play, and the spirit of poetry breathes everywhere. He abounds in
lofty and beautiful imagery, that places the truth in the clearest
light. While the subject is never lost sight of, a thousand graces and
beauties cluster around it from every hand. From the elevation and
certainty of his language, many casual hearers have been led to imagine
that his speeches were written and committed. But the reverse is the
case. Some of his highest efforts have been made with no time even for
the prearrangement of thought. This is one secret of his great success
as a debater. He is always ready, with or without warning, to speak the
thoughts that are in his mind. But he prefers, of course, to have time
to arrange his matter in advance.

The following passage will illustrate the force of Mr. Bingham’s thought
and expression. It is from a speech in reply to Wadsworth, and was
entirely unstudied:

  “As the gentleman then and now has chosen to assail me for this, I
  may be pardoned for calling his attention to the inquiry, what
  further did I say in that connection, on that day, and in the
  hearing of the gentleman? I said that every loyal citizen in this
  land held his life, his property, his home, and the children of his
  house, a sacred trust for the common defence. Did that remark excite
  any horror in the gentleman’s mind. Not at all I undertook, in my
  humble way, to demonstrate that, by the very letter and spirit of
  the Constitution, you had a right to lay the lives and the property
  and the homes, the very hearth-stones of the honest and the just and
  the good, under contribution by law, that the Republic might live.
  Did that remark excite any abhorrence in the gentleman, or any
  threat that fifteen slave States would be combined against us? Not
  at all. I stated in my place just as plainly, that by your law you
  might for the common defence not only take the father of the house,
  but the eldest born of his house, to the tented field by force of
  your conscription, if need be, and subject him to the necessary
  despotism of military rule, to the pestilence of the camp, and the
  destruction of the battle-field. And yet the gentleman was not
  startled with the horrid vision of a violated Constitution, and
  there burst from his indignant lips no threat that if we did this
  there would be a union of fifteen slave States against the Federal
  despotism. I asserted in my place, further, that after you had taken
  the father and his eldest born away, and given them both to death a
  sacrifice for their country, you could, by the very terms of the
  Constitution, take away the shelter of the roof-tree which his own
  hands had reared for the protection of the wife and the children
  that were left behind, and quarter your soldiers beneath it, that
  the Republic might live. And yet the gentleman saw no infraction of
  the Constitution, and made no threat of becoming the armed ally of
  the rebellion. But the moment that I declared my conviction that the
  public exigencies and the public necessities required, that the
  Constitution and the oaths of the people’s Representatives required,
  that by your law—the imperial mandate of the people—the proclamation
  of liberty should go forth over all that rebel region, declaring
  that every slave in the service of these infernal conspirators
  against your children and mine, against your homes and mine, against
  your Constitution and mine, against the sacred graves of your
  kindred and mine, shall be free, the gentleman rises startled with
  the horrid vision of broken fetters and liberated bondmen, treason
  overthrown, and a country redeemed, regenerated, and forever
  reunited, and cries, No; this shall not be; fifteen States will
  combine against you. Slavery is the civilizer; you shall neither
  denounce it as an ‘infernal atrocity,’ nor overthrow it to save the
  Union. I repeat the word which so moved the gentleman from his
  propriety, that chattel slavery is an ‘infernal atrocity.’ I thank
  God that I learned to lisp it at my mother’s knee. It is a logical
  sequence, sir, disguise it as you may, from that golden rule which
  was among the first utterances of all of us, ‘whatsoever ye would
  that men should do unto you, do ye so even unto them.’”

The second instance is taken from a speech on the proposal to furnish
relief to the Southerners who were in a destitute and starving condition
after the close of the war.

  “No war rocks the continent, no armed rebellion threatens with
  overthrow the institutions of the country. The pillars of the holy
  temple of our liberties do not tremble in the storm of battle; the
  whole heavens are no longer covered with blackness, and the
  habitations of the people are no longer filled with lamentation and
  sorrow for their beautiful slain upon the high places of the land!
  Thanks be to God! the harvest of death is ended and the sickle has
  dropped from the hands of the ‘pale reapers’ on the field of mortal

  “Sir, you may apply in the day of war the iron rule of war, and say
  that the innocent and unoffending in the beleagured city shall
  perish with the guilty; but when war’s dread alarm has ended, as
  happily it has with us, when the broken battalions of rebellion have
  surrendered to the victorious legions of the Republic, let no man
  stand within the forum of the people and utter the horrid blasphemy
  that you shall not have regard for the famishing poor, that you
  shall not give a cup of water to him that is ready to perish in the
  name of our Master, that you shall not even relieve the wants of
  those who have never offended against the laws. The unoffending
  little children are not enemies of your country or of mine; the
  crime of treason is not upon their souls. Surely, surely they are
  not to be denied your care. The great French patriot, banished from
  the empire for his love of liberty, gathered little children around
  him in his exile at Guernsey, and fed them from his own table,
  uttering the judgment of our common humanity in its best estate;
  ‘Little children at least are innocent, for God wills it so.’”

                         WILLIAM E. GLADSTONE.

This great statesman and orator is an extempore speaker, and one of the
best in the world. He has not, perhaps, the fiery force of John Bright,
who, like himself, speaks without previous preparation of words, but far
surpasses him in variety and elegance. His speech, like a prism,
reflects a thousand shades of color, and the dullest subject under his
treatment blooms into life and light. His style is more like that of
Cicero than of Demosthenes, being diffuse, sparkling, graceful—flowing
like a river, that is always full to the brim. He is prepared at any
hour of day or night to take part in any discussion of interest to him.
Even when he is explaining details of finance, usually the driest of
subjects, he is listened to with delighted interest. By the mere force
of his talents he has raised himself to a commanding position in
England, and as a writer has also attracted much attention.

Gladstone is of a light and nervous build, has a very sweet and
attractive countenance, and a rich and fascinating voice. As a debater
he is almost faultless, unless his want of harshness and maliciousness
be called a fault. Sometimes, too, he shows a disposition to yield
rather than contend, but never when principle is at stake. To him,
perhaps more than any other, belongs the credit of the great reform bill
which has almost changed the government of Great Britain.

The following extract from a communication on the subject of extempore
speaking will be read with deep interest:

                                “HAWANDEN, NORTH WALES, Oct. 12, 1867.

  ... “I venture to remark, first, that your countrymen, so far as a
  very limited intercourse and experience can enable me to judge,
  stand very little in need of instruction or advice as to public
  speaking from this side of the water. And further, again speaking of
  my own experience, I think that the public men of England are,
  beyond all others, engrossed by the multitude of cares and subjects
  of thought belonging to the government of a highly diversified
  empire, and therefore are probably less than others qualified either
  to impart to others the best methods of preparing public discourses,
  or to consider and adopt them for themselves.

  “Suppose, however, I were to make the attempt, I should certainly
  found myself on a double basis, compounded as follows: First, of a
  wide and thorough general education, which, I think, gives a
  suppleness and readiness, as well as a firmness of tissue to the
  mind, not easily obtained without this form of discipline. Secondly,
  of the habit of constant and searching reflection on the _subject_
  of any proposed discourse. Such reflection will naturally clothe
  itself in words, and of the phrases it supplies, many will
  spontaneously rise to the lips. I will not say that no other forms
  of preparation can be useful, but I know little of them, and it is
  on these, beyond all doubt, that I would advise the young
  principally to rely.

                                 “I remain, &c.,      W. E. GLADSTONE.


                            MATTHEW SIMPSON.

This distinguished divine was born in Cadiz, O., in 1811, began to
preach in 1833, and was elected Bishop of the M. E. Church in 1852. At
the very beginning of his ministerial career, his sermons made a deep
impression, and his early promise has been abundantly realized.

As a lecturer he has also acquired a deservedly high rank. During the
war of the rebellion he delivered a discourse on the “Future of Our
Country,” in the principal cities of the United States, which gave him a
more than denominational fame. This lecture has probably never been
surpassed as a summing up of the resources of the nation, and an
application of the data to the prediction of the probable destiny and
form of our government. As far as words were concerned, it was an
extempore address, and had the peculiarity that might be expected from
this fact, of being much better delivered, and therefore, of making a
much more profound impression at some points than others.

Simpson travels continually, preaching at conferences, dedicating
churches, and delivering lectures, thus being brought into close contact
with the people in all parts of the country. He has little resemblance
to the popular ideal of an orator. His action is ungraceful, and his
voice low and almost monotonous. He is also hard worked, and not having
the powers of endurance possessed by some of our incessant preachers, he
usually appears tired and exhausted. Yet he has three qualities that go
far to make up for these defects. He is intensely earnest and real.
Before listening to him five minutes his hearers are convinced that he
is speaking the very thoughts of his soul without evasion or pretense.
He also has great imagination, and, as a consequence, the statement of
facts, in which he abounds, is never dry or tedious. And lastly, he has
great command of condensed and expressive language. What he wishes to
say is said in a few words, and every sermon is filled with the
materials of thought rather than with mere verbiage. These qualities
atone for every deficiency of external grace, and place him among the
most popular ministers of the Methodist Church.

Simpson preaches entirely extempore, having no time to write, even if he
had the disposition. His memory is tenacious, and his power of
observation keen, so that he is never at a loss for facts or
illustrations. He has a tender heart also, and often appeals to his own
vivid experiences, thus drawing the sympathies of the people with him.

                           WENDELL PHILLIPS.

There can scarcely be a doubt that Wendell Phillips is the greatest
professional lecturer of the present day. He is always radical, and on
the extremest verge of every question, although in many things the
people have followed hard on his footsteps. As a speaker, he has great
power, combined with unsurpassed elegance. His manner is calm, his voice
of silvery sweetness, yet every rounded sentence is full of living
flame, and no man is so unsparing in his denunciations. In a style as
lucid, exact, and pure as that of a scholar who has been all his life
secluded from the world, and busied with literature alone, he utters
words and sentences befitting the stormiest revolution.

The lectures of Phillips, which are repeated again and again, are, of
course, well studied and the language followed pretty closely, though
not invariably. But like Mirabeau, it is in his unstudied speeches that
he rises highest. The first address that gave him public fame was of
this character. A meeting had been called in Boston to pass resolutions
of indignation on the occasion of the murder of Lovejoy, who was killed
in Illinois for his devotion to freedom. The whole business of the
meeting was arrested, and the resolutions were on the point of being
defeated by the powerful opposition of a leading politician, who feared
even to say that murder was wrong. Phillips was present as a listener,
but could keep his seat no longer, and, arising, gave vent to his
feelings in a speech so full of thrilling and indignant eloquence, that
the purpose of the meeting was at once secured, and he himself brought
before the public as one of the first orators of the age.

In regard to the manner of his preparation Phillips himself refers to
the celebrated letter of Lord Brougham to the father of Macaulay, on the
training of his son in eloquence. The substance of Brougham’s advice is,
to first acquire the power of speaking freely and easily before an
audience, no matter at what sacrifice of accuracy and elegance. This, he
says truly, can only be done by much practice. When this is
accomplished, he recommends studying and committing to memory the
orations of Demosthenes until their spirit is fully imbibed.

                            JOHN P. DURBIN.

This traveler, scholar, and preacher, adds another one to the long and
illustrious list of those who have triumphed over every hindrance and
risen to eminence. He was born in 1800. A district school afforded him
all the education he obtained before entering the Methodist itineracy,
but while enduring the hardships of a pioneer minister he studied
diligently, perusing his Bible and commentaries around the log fires of
his parishioners whenever even this poor opportunity occurred. When he
was appointed to Cincinnati a more promising field opened. He went to
college during the week, and still filled his pulpit on the Sabbath. He
soon after became a professor in a college, and afterward chaplain to
Congress, where he was highly distinguished. Then he served a time as
editor of the _New York Advocate_, and became President of Dickenson
College. Next he traveled through the old world, as far as Egypt and
Syria, and, returning, wrote a very interesting account of his journey.
He was, lastly, elected Corresponding Secretary of the M. E. Missionary
Society—a position which he has held for years, and which brings him
into contact with large masses of people in every part of the country.

The merits of Durbin as an orator are many and high. He possesses deep
feeling, and the tears of the people to whom he preaches are at his
command. There is a greatness about his character that is always felt,
and with it a childlike simplicity that endears him to every heart.
There is an utter absence of the pretension we sometimes find about
those who are conscious of the possession of great powers. His
arrangement of every sermon is plain, simple, and easily remembered. His
command of words is complete, and he always finds just the one he wants
without hesitation. The tones of his voice are affectionate and
pleasing, though when not called into animation by some subject worthy
of his powers, a little monotonous, yet so strong that when he seems to
be only talking at the pitch of common conversation, every word can be
heard to the extremity of the largest church. But his voice can be
raised to a thunder peal that is the more impressive because it is
seldom employed. The perfect ease with which he preaches, is far
different from the manner of those who have memorized every word and are
full of anxiety for its effect. Often while he talks away with apparent
indifference, every eye is fixed on his, or moistened with tears. When
we heard him, some of his images were overwhelmingly sublime, and we
held our breath in awe; at other times his explanations seemed to throw
new and radiant light on what was before dark and obscure.

The mode by which Durbin attained his great success is worthy of careful
attention. In a communication to the compiler of these notices, he says:

  ... “I never wrote my sermons—not more than two or three in my
  life—and these not till after I had preached them. My plan has been
  to have a well-defined topic, and only such subdivisions as
  naturally arise out of the topic. I generally put them down
  separately on a small piece of paper, which I take into the pulpit,
  but scarcely ever use. This is commonly called a _skeleton_. I do
  not write out anything I propose to say, but carefully think over
  the main points; but never commit them to memory. I keep within
  living touch of my skeleton, but depend on the natural
  consecutiveness of thought to enable me to clothe it with muscle;
  and I depend on the inspiration of the occasion to give it life and
  color. The inspiration is partly human and partly divine; arising
  from the combined action of the divine and the human spirit, which
  combined action constitutes the power of a _preached_ gospel.

  “So far as human ability is concerned, I believe that this is the
  secret of any success I have had in preaching the Gospel.”

                              NEWMAN HALL.

The _Evangelist_ gives Rev. Newman Hall’s account of how he learned
extempore preaching, as follows:

  “When I went to college, it seemed to me that I should never be able
  to say a word in public without writing. But I soon determined that
  if I was going to be a preacher, and particularly if I wanted to be
  anything like a successful preacher, I _must_ form the habit of
  extemporaneous address. So I went into my room, locked the door,
  placed the Bible before me on a mantel, opened it at random, and
  then on whatever passage my eye chanced to rest, proceeded to
  deliver a discourse of ten minutes. This practice was kept up an
  entire twelve months. Every day, for a whole year, ten minutes were
  given to that kind of speaking, in my own room by myself. At first I
  found it very difficult to speak so long right to the point. But
  then if I couldn’t talk _on_ the subject I would talk _about_
  it—making good remarks and moral reflections—being careful to keep
  up the flow, and say something to the end of the term allotted for
  the exercise. At the end of the twelve months, however, I found I
  could not only speak with a good degree of fluency, but that I could
  hold myself strictly to the subject in hand. You take this course.
  Don’t do your practising on an audience. That is outrageous.”


                         THE CHAIRMAN’S GUIDE.

When the business of an assembly is limited to hearing one man speak,
there is little need of rules. But when there are several speeches, and
various kinds of business are mingled with them, the subject of order
becomes important. Many a fluent speaker may be embarrassed because he
does not know just when he ought to speak, and how to introduce what he
desires. A member of Congress, for instance, cannot be efficient, no
matter what his talents, until he masters the rules of business. Even in
smaller and less formal assemblies it is of great advantage to every
one, especially if called upon to preside, as all may be in this land of
discussions, to know just how to fulfil the duties imposed on him. In
this short, and necessarily imperfect sketch, we will only aim to give
those simple forms of parliamentary law that will often be needed by
every man who essays to speak at all.

Every society has the right to form its own laws, and whenever it does
positively determine any matter, the general rules of order are
superseded to that extent. But it would be an endless task for any body
to provide beforehand for every case that might occur, and the greater
part of these are always left to be decided by general usage. This
usage, which has been growing up for years, now covers almost every
possible point. An eminent authority says: “It is much more material
that there should be a rule to go by than what that rule is, for then
the standard cannot be changed to suit the caprice or interest of the
chairman, or more active members, and all are assured of justice.”

The same rules apply to all assemblies, with a few modifications, which
are readily suggested by the nature of the assembly. We will give a few
of the special applications first, and afterward the general rules.

                         RELIGIOUS ASSEMBLIES.

The regular public service of churches which have a ritual is governed
by it, and in those which have none, usage always fixes a course from
which the preacher should not vary without good reasons. The most common
mode of procedure in churches that are governed by unwritten custom is,
first, a short invocation of God’s blessing on the service. This is
omitted in the Methodist church and some others. Then follows the
reading and singing of a hymn; prayer, the reading of a Scripture lesson
(which is frequently omitted in evening service), singing again and
preaching. There are several modes of closing. Sometimes the order is:
prayer; singing a hymn, with doxology attached; and benediction.
Sometimes singing comes first, then prayer, and the benediction
pronounced while the congregation is in the attitude of prayer.
Sometimes there are four distinct acts; singing a hymn; prayer; singing
the doxology; and benediction. The order in which these modes of closing
are stated is, in our opinion, also the order of preference.

Business and congregational meetings are governed by the common rules of


In meetings of this character, the object usually is to enjoy a pleasant
time, hear speeches, and pass resolutions that have been prepared
beforehand, and on which no discussion is expected. In Sunday-school
celebrations, and other meetings of the same nature, let a programme be
formed, with each performance in its order, and either printed and
distributed or read as soon as the meeting is called to order. This must
be done at the proper time by the superintendent, or some one appointed
for the purpose, who will act as chairman, and introduce each speaker in
his turn. Any resolutions offered should be in writing, and also read by
him, and put to vote in the regular form. When the exercises are closed
the meeting will be dismissed without waiting for a motion to adjourn.

In anniversary meetings of a more formal character, it is common to have
each speaker supplied, in advance, with a resolution on which he is to
speak. At the proper time he will arise, offer the resolution, and make
his address. If it is desirable to have more than one speech on that
resolution, the next can second the motion and speak in the same way.
Then the resolution may be put in the common form. This can be continued
until all the resolutions and speakers are disposed of.


In the societies usually attached to colleges, everything should be done
with the most scrupulous regularity, and thus the rules of public
business fully learned. It is well also for them to have a certain order
by which all their exercises shall be governed, and everything made to
move on with the regularity of clockwork. A committee can easily
construct such a plan, and it can be amended as desired. It should
always have a department for miscellaneous business.

Literary societies and debating clubs are very commonly formed in
villages and school districts, and when properly carried on can scarcely
fail to be profitable. Many a person has received his first lesson in
eloquence in such a school, and the fluency and confidence a boy or
young man can acquire in them may be of life-long advantage. Their
organization may be very simple. A meeting has been called by some one
who is interested in the matter, and when the people are met he calls
them to order, nominates a chairman, puts the question, and at the
request of the chair explains the object of the meeting. Some one then
moves to appoint a committee to draft a Constitution and By-laws. It is
best for the committee to have these previously prepared, that no time
may be lost. The following form, taken from “How to Talk,” with a few
modifications, will be all that is needed in most cases:


                           ARTICLE I.—_Name._

  This Society shall be known as the      of

                         ARTICLE II.—_Objects._

  The object of this Society shall be the improvement of its Members
  in debating, and the promotion of their intellectual, social, and
  moral advancement.

                       ARTICLE III.—_Membership._

  Any person of good moral character may become a member of this
  Society, by signing the Constitution and paying the initiation fee.
  [In some cases it may be necessary to receive Members by a vote of
  the Society, after being regularly proposed.]

                ARTICLE IV.—_Officers and their Duties._

  The Officers of this Society shall consist of a President, a
  Vice-President, a Secretary, and a Treasurer; each of whom shall be
  elected by ballot, and their duties shall be the same as are
  generally required of such officers in similar societies.

                        ARTICLE V.—_Amendments._

  No addition, alteration, or amendment shall be made to this
  Constitution without a vote of two-thirds of the Members present,
  and no motion to amend shall be acted upon at the same meeting at
  which it is proposed.


                         ARTICLE I.—_Meetings._

  SEC. 1.—This Society shall meet on the      of each      for the
  promotion of its objects and the transaction of business.

  SEC. 2.—There shall be an annual meeting on the      of      for the
  election of Officers, and to hear the reports of the Secretary and

  SEC. 3.—Special meetings may be called by the President at the
  request of Members.

                     ARTICLE II.—_Initiation Fee._

  All persons received into this Society shall pay the sum of      on
  signing the Constitution.

                          ARTICLE III.—_Dues._

  All Members shall pay the sum of      per month, to be appropriated,
  with the initiation fees, to defraying the expenses of the Society;
  and no Member who may be in arrears for dues more than two months
  shall be allowed to speak or vote on any question till such
  arrearages shall be paid.

                       ARTICLE IV.—_Expulsions._

  Any Member who shall refuse to conform to the Constitution and
  By-laws, or shall be guilty of repeated disorderly conduct, shall be
  subjected to expulsion by a vote of two-thirds of the Members
  present; but no motion to expel a Member shall be acted upon at the
  same meeting at which it is offered.

                        ARTICLE V.—_Amendments._

  The same rule in reference to amendments shall apply to the By-laws
  as to the Constitution.

The Constitution when presented may be discussed, and put to vote,
altogether, or article by article; if adopted, it becomes the law of the
meeting. A list of members will then be made out, including all who
desire to be enrolled, and are willing to pay the initiation fee. Then a
new election of officers should be held, with those only who are members
voting. The old chairman will retain his seat until the new one is
elected. When it is intended to have performances of different kinds, as
essays, orations, debates, etc., it is well to appoint a committee to
draw up a regular order in which these will be called for. The society
being now organized, may proceed to business, or fix the time for next
meeting and adjourn.


When one or more persons desire to call a meeting for any purpose, there
is often great confusion and uncertainty as to the mode of procedure. A
few simple rules will go far to obviate all difficulty. In the call,
those only who are favorable to the intended object should be invited,
and if others attend, they should take no part in the meeting, unless
challenged to discussion.

The responsibility for the guidance of the meeting until its regular
organization, rests on those who have called it. When the people have
met at the appointed time, one of these will ask them to come to order,
and will then nominate a chairman; when this is seconded, he will put it
to vote, and call the man elected to the chair, who will put all other
motions. A secretary also should be elected, and then the meeting is
regularly organized. The chairman next states the object of the meeting,
or if he prefers, calls upon one of those interested to do it.

Some one will then move the appointment of a committee (which is said to
be the American panacea for everything) to prepare resolutions
expressive of the wishes or opinion of the meeting. If the names of the
persons to compose the committee be not mentioned in the original
motion, it is usual for the chairman to name them, putting the name of
the mover first on the list. The chairman may, for good reasons, excuse
any one of the committee from acting, if there be no objections on the
part of the assembly. But if there are, he can only be excused by vote.
The committee then require some time to make their report, and it is
common for the chairman to call on some one, who ought to be notified
beforehand, for a speech. When the committee have finished their
business they will return, and waiting until no one is speaking, their
chairman will address the chairman of the meeting, telling him that they
are ready to report. If no objection is made, the resolutions prepared
are then read, and are at the disposal of the meeting. They may be
treated separately, or together, amended, adopted or rejected. The
resolutions may be prepared beforehand, in which case the appointment of
the committee may be dispensed with. If the resolutions should not be
satisfactory, they may be recommitted.

When the resolutions have been disposed of, the speaker will announce
that there is no business before the house, which will either bring a
motion to adjourn, or new business.

                           DELEGATED BODIES.

All legislatures, boards of directors, etc., hold their power only in
trust for others who are not present, and are therefore held to stricter
limitations in the performance of business than those assemblies which
act only for themselves. In case the right of any delegate is disputed,
this must be settled as soon as possible. In nearly all such meetings it
is also provided that many things shall not be considered as determined
until referred back to those by whom the members were chosen. With these
exceptions, and the special rules that such bodies may provide, they are
under the strict government of parliamentary law.

                          CONTINUED MEETINGS.

When any body holds sessions at intervals, it becomes necessary to bear
in mind what has been previously done. This is accomplished by having
the minutes of each meeting read at the beginning of the next, and if
any mistakes exist they are corrected. This enables the assembly to take
up the business where it closed, and proceed as if there had been no
interruption. It is also well to have a certain order of business fixed,
which shall always suggest what is proper to be done and prevent
confusion. This order will necessarily differ in the various kinds of
meetings. Legislative bodies, from the great variety of business brought
before them, can seldom fix on any order that can be followed from day
to day, but they often establish a regular order for a certain time.
Matthias suggested the following arrangement for business meetings of
bank directors, railway stockholders, etc.:

1. Presenting communications from parties outside of the meeting. A
communication is read, and motions for action on it may be made,
amended, and passed or rejected. After this has been done, or if no
motion is made, the next communication is taken up.

2. Reports of standing committees. The chairman will call for these in
their order, and each one, if prepared, will be read by the chairman of
the committee. It should close with a resolution of some kind, and when
it is moved and seconded that this be adopted, it may be discussed and
determined as the assembly see fit. The minority of a committee may make
a separate report if they wish.

3. Treasurer’s report.

4. Unfinished business.

5. New business.

                        GENERAL RULES OF ORDER.

1. In bodies which have a fixed number of members, a certain proportion
most be present to make the transaction of business valid. The number
may be fixed by the expression of the assembly, or its general custom.
In the absence of any other rule, a majority is sufficient. The chairman
should not take his seat until he sees that a quorum is present, and if
the assembly is at any time reduced below this number, nothing but
adjournment is in order.

2. The assembly may make its own rules in whole or in part, but whatever
it does not determine, shall be subject to the common rules of order.

Any member has a right to insist on the enforcement of the rules, but
this duty belongs especially to the chair.

3. In the absence of any special rule, the consent of a majority of the
members voting is requisite to determine any point. A plurality, where
more than two issues are presented, is not sufficient.


Presiding and recording officers are necessary in every meeting, and
must be chosen by an absolute majority. When the assembly has financial
matters to manage, a treasurer must also be elected.

                           PRESIDING OFFICER.

This officer is known by various titles, such as chairman, president,
speaker, moderator, etc. We will use the first. The chairman represents
the assembly, declares its will, and obeys it implicitly. He must be
treated with great respect, although his power is only a delegated one,
and may be set aside by the declared will of the assembly. His principal
duties are:

1. To begin the session by taking the chair and calling the members to

2. To announce business in its order.

3. To submit all motions and propositions.

4. To put all questions and announce the result.

6. To restrain members within rules of order.

6. To receive all communications and announce them to the assembly.

7. To sign public documents.

8. To decide points of order, subject to an appeal to the assembly.

The chairman should fully understand all the rules of business, be kind
and courteous to all, but prompt and firm, for on him, more than any
other, the order and harmony of every meeting depends.

In the absence of the chairman, the vice-president takes the chair, and
when there is no such officer, a temporary chairman must be elected.

The chairman may read while sitting, but should rise to state a question
or take a vote.

                           RECORDING OFFICER.

Secretary or clerk is the name usually bestowed on this officer. We will
employ the first. It is his duty to keep a true record of all that is
done in the assembly. Speeches and motions that do not prevail, need not
be recorded. But it is sometimes customary, when it is intended to
publish the proceedings, and no reporter is present, for the secretary
to make the minutes take the form of a journal.

2. The secretary must keep all papers that belong to the society in
safety; read them when ordered; call the roll; notify committees of
their appointment and business; and sign all orders and proceedings of
the assembly.

3. A temporary secretary must be elected during the absence of the
permanent one, unless there is an assistant to take his place.

4. The secretary should always stand in reading, or calling the roll.


1. All members are on a footing of absolute equality, and in every form
of business the same courtesy and attention should be shown to each one
by the chair and by all other members.

2. Every member is expected to observe strict decorum in his behavior.
Standing, walking about, interrupting speakers, hissing, whispering,
taking books or papers from the speaker’s table, are all breaches of

3. Any member accused of disorderly behavior may, when the charge is
stated, be heard in his own behalf, and is then required to withdraw,
until the assembly decides as to his guilt and punishment. He may be
reprimanded, required to apologize, or expelled.


1. Business can only be introduced into an assembly by a motion.
Persons, not members, may make communications, or send petitions asking
for the doing of certain things; but these must be taken by one of the
members, and by him read or presented to the assembly. It is then before
the body for consideration, but nothing can be done with it until a
motion is made by some one belonging to the assembly.

2. An assembly expresses its opinion by a resolution, commands by an
order, and determines its own action by a vote. A member who wishes to
secure either of these, draws it up in the form he desires it to bear,
and moves that the assembly adopt what he proposes. He must first obtain
the floor. This is done by rising and addressing the chairman by his
title. If there be no previous claimant, the chairman responds by
mentioning the speaker’s name, when he is at liberty to go on. When he
has made his motion, another member must second it before the assembly
will receive it or pay any attention to it. The chair or any member may
insist on the motion being written, unless it is one of the kind that
have a certain form, such as to adjourn, etc. The motion when seconded,
is to be stated by the chair, when it becomes the property of the
assembly, and is ready for debate or such other action as may be
preferred. Suggestions and modifications of the motion may be made, or
it may be withdrawn altogether, before this; but not after, without
leave of the assembly formally expressed. No other motion, with some
exceptions to be hereafter explained, can be entertained until the first
is disposed of.

When a motion is made the assembly may do one of five things with it.

1. Decide it in the shape it then has.

2. Suppress all consideration of it or action on it.

3. Postpone it until a future time.

4. Refer it to a committee to be put in a better form.

5. Amend it themselves before deciding it.

We will consider these different ways of treating a question in their


It is always to be taken for granted that the assembly is willing to
decide a motion at once, unless some one moves to adopt one of the other
courses. It may be repeated first, and when no one rises, the chair asks
if they are ready for the question; if no one responds, it is put to


1. Sometimes the assembly does not wish to discuss a motion at all. In
that case a member may move that it be indefinitely postponed. If this
is debated, the matter remains as it was before. If it prevails, the
matter is ended, and can only be brought up as a new question.

2. The motion to lay a subject on the table has nearly the same effect.
If it prevails, the subject cannot be taken up without a motion to that

3. The famous “previous question” has a totally different purpose in
this country and England. There it is used to postpone a question. Its
form is, “Shall the main question now be put?” and it is moved by those
who wish to obtain a negative decision, the effect of which is to remove
the question from before the house for that day, and by usage for the
whole session.

4. In this country it is used to prevent debate, and is only moved by
those who wish an affirmative decision. When this is carried the
question must be voted upon without further remarks. A majority ought to
use this power of stopping debate very sparingly, and never without good


If the assembly is not prepared to act upon a question, or has more
important business before it, the proper course is for some one to move
that it be postponed until a certain time. If no time is fixed the
question is suppressed altogether. If the assembly is dissolved before
the appointed day, the effect is the same.


If the form of the motion is crude, it may be given into the hands of a
committee to perfect. If it first came from a committee, it may be given
back to them, which is called a recommitment. The whole or a part of a
subject may be committed, and the assembly may, by vote, give such
instructions as it desires. This motion is sometimes made use of for the
purpose of procuring further information.


The assembly may alter, increase, or diminish any proposition at its
pleasure. Its nature is often changed entirely.

1. Every complicated question may be divided by a regular vote. This is
usually done, if no objection is offered, without a vote, but it cannot
be required by a single member as is sometimes stated. A motion to
divide should specify the manner of division.

2. If blanks are left in resolutions, these must be filled by motion. If
these embrace figures, and several numbers are proposed, that which
includes the others may be put to vote first. But it is usually as well
to put first that which is moved first.

3. All motions to amend, except by division, must be to amend by
inserting or adding, or by striking out, or both.

4. An amendment may be accepted by the mover of a resolution, if no
objection is made, for then general consent is presumed; but not

5. It is strict parliamentary law to begin with the beginning of a
proposition, and after the latter part is amended, not to return to a
former part; but this is seldom insisted on in common societies.

6. Every amendment is susceptible of amendment, but this can go no
further. But the second amendment may be defeated, and then a new one
made to the principal amendment.

7. Whatever is agreed to, or disagreed to by the acceptance or rejection
of an amendment cannot again be changed.

8. What is struck out cannot be inserted by another amendment, unless
with such additions as to make it a new question. Neither can what is
retained be changed.

9. Before putting the question on an amendment, the passage should be
read as it was; then the amendment; lastly the passage as amended.

10. A paragraph that is inserted by vote Cannot be changed, but it may
be amended before the question is put.

11. When the amendment is both to strike out and insert, these two may
be divided by vote or general consent, and then the question is taken
first on striking out.

                           PREFERRED MOTIONS.

When a motion is before the assembly, it must be disposed of before
anything else can be brought forward, with the exception of three
classes of questions. These are privileged, incidental, and subsidiary

                        1.—PRIVILEGED QUESTIONS.

1. The motion to adjourn takes precedence of every other, except when it
has been moved and defeated, when it shall not be moved again until
something else has been done. It cannot be moved while a member is
speaking, or a vote being taken. But to be entitled to such precedence,
it must be a simple motion to adjourn, without question of time or
place. If these are added, it must take its regular turn. An adjournment
without any time being fixed, is equivalent to a dissolution, unless
this has been provided for by custom or especial rule. At adjournment
every pending question is taken from before the assembly, and can only
be brought up again in the regular way.

2. Any question affecting the rights and privileges of members, as in
quarreling, the intrusion of strangers, etc., comes next in order to
adjournment, and displaces everything else.

3. If the assembly fix on an order of business for a certain time, when
that time arrives, a motion to take up this order has precedence of all
questions, but the two preceding.

                        2.—INCIDENTAL QUESTIONS.

Incidental questions are those that grow out of other questions, and
must be decided before them.

1. Questions of order. If there is a breach of rules it is the duty of
the chair to enforce them, and any member to call for their enforcement.
This should be done at once. When there is a doubt as to what
constitutes a breach of the rules, it is first decided by the chair,
subject to an appeal to the assembly, which may be put in this form,
“Shall the decision of the chair stand as the decision of the assembly?”
On this the chair may debate as well as others, but the vote is final.

2. When papers are laid on the secretary’s table for the information of
the assembly, any member may demand to have them read; but other papers
can only be read after a regular motion is carried to that effect.

3. After a motion is stated by the chair, permission may be given to
withdraw it by a regular vote.

4. A rule that interferes with the transaction of any business may be
suspended by a unanimous vote, or in accordance with the provisions of a
special rule which points out the majority requisite, such as
two-thirds, three-fourths, etc.

                        3.—SUBSIDIARY QUESTIONS.

These relate to the principal question as secondary planets do to their
primaries. They are of different degrees among themselves, and with a
few exceptions are not applied to one another.

1. “Lie on the table.” This takes precedence of all the subsidiary
motions. If carried, it takes the principal question and all that
belongs to it from the consideration of the assembly, and they can only
be brought up by a new motion. If decided in the negative, this
question, like all the others of the same class, except the previous
question, has no effect whatever.

2. “Previous question.” This motion can only be superseded by that to
lay on the table. If lost, the question is not before the house for the
remainder of that day.

3. A motion to postpone may be amended by fixing the time or changing
it. If several days are mentioned, the longest time should be put first.

4. A motion to commit takes precedence of a motion to amend, but stands
in the same rank with the others, except to lay on the table, and cannot
be superseded by them, if moved first.

5. A motion to amend may be amended. It is not superseded by the
previous question, or a motion for indefinite postponement, but is by a
motion to postpone till a time certain, or to commit.

It is very important that the order of these secondary questions be
carefully observed, as there may be many of them pending at once.


Debate in a society organized for the purpose of discussion, and in a
deliberative body are quite different. In the former reply is expected,
and may be bandied back and forth several times. In the latter the
object is supposed to be giving information, and each member is limited
to one speech, unless special permission is received to speak again. The
chair must not take part in debates.

1. When a member wishes to speak, he obtains the floor in the same
manner as if to offer a motion. The mover of a resolution is usually
allowed the floor first, but this is a matter of courtesy rather than

2. When a speaker gives up the floor for any purpose, he loses his right
to it, though as a favor he is often allowed to continue his speech.

3. No names are to be used in debate, but when it becomes necessary to
designate an individual, some description may be used, as, the gentleman
on the right, etc.

4. Every member must stand, when speaking, unless sick or disabled.

5. Motions to adjourn, to lay on the table, for the previous question,
or the order of the day cannot be debated.

6. No member shall use abusive language against any of the acts of the
assembly, or indulge in personal denunciations of other members. Wrong
motives must not be attributed to any one. If a speaker digresses widely
from the subject, and appears to misunderstand its nature, he may be
called to order.

7. A member who is decided to be out of order loses his right to the
floor, but this is seldom insisted on.

8. A member cannot speak more than once on the same question without
special permission, which must not be given until all have spoken; but
he may speak on amendments, and on the same subject, when it is returned
from a committee.

10. A member who has been misrepresented has the right to explain, but
not to interrupt any one who is speaking for that purpose.

11. Debate may be stopped by the previous question; by determining in
advance that at a certain time, the question shall be decided; or by
adopting a rule limiting each member to so many minutes. In the latter
case, the chair announces the expiration of the time, and the member
takes his seat.

12. Every member should be listened to with respect, and no attempt made
to interrupt him, unless he transgress the bounds of order. Calling for
the question, hissing, coughing, etc., should be restrained by the chair
if possible. The speaker may learn from these things that the assembly
does not wish to hear him, but he is not bound to heed them. If
necessary, the chair will name the obstinate offenders for punishment,
who may be heard in their own defence, but must then withdraw while the
assembly determines what punishment should be inflicted. But if all
means of preserving order fail, and the chairman’s repeated calls are
unnoticed, he is not responsible for this disorder, although it would be
better then to resign an office that he can no longer make respected,
unless so bound by public duty that he cannot take this course.

13. If a member in speaking makes use of disorderly words, notice should
be taken at once. The words used, if the offence is serious, should be
reduced to writing while fresh in the memory of all. If necessary, the
assembly may determine what words were used, whether they were offensive
or not, and at its pleasure require an apology, censure, or expel the
offender. If other business is done before attention is called to the
disorderly words, they cannot again be taken up.

                         PUTTING THE QUESTION.

When discussion and all preliminary matters are finished, the next step
is to ascertain the will of the assembly. There are six ways of doing
this. We will put first those that are most used:

1. The chair asks, “Are you ready for the question?” No objection being
made, he first puts the affirmative, asking those who favor the motion
to say, “Aye;” those who are opposed, “No.” He judges from the volume of
sound, and declares which he believes has the majority. If any one
doubts this, he may require the vote to be taken in a more exact way.

2. In place of saying “aye,” the affirmative may be asked to hold up
their hands; then when these are down the same is asked of the negative.
The determination in this case is the same as in the former case.

3. The affirmative may be required to rise to their feet and be counted;
and when seated the negative will rise. These will also be counted, and
this is the mode most commonly resorted to, when the result as declared
by the chair, from the former methods, is doubted.

4. In this the affirmative and negative may stand up at once, but in
different parts of the house, and be counted. This is a real “division.”

5. The method by ballot may be employed; each man writing his wish on a
ticket. These are collected and counted. This mode is often employed in
the election of officers, but seldom in the determination of simple

6. The roll may be called by the secretary, and each man in his place
answer, “Aye,” or “No.” These are marked by the secretary, and others
who keep tally, and the result announced. Sometimes the names are
entered on the journals, in two lists of “Aye” and “No.” The word “Yea,”
is often used in place of “Aye.”

The chair has a casting vote in case of equal division.

A member who voted with the affirmative may move the reconsideration of
any question, and if his motion is carried, the whole matter is opened
up as it was at first, and may be discussed as before.


The use of a committee is to give a subject more careful consideration
than it could receive in a full assembly. They are of three kinds. From
their great importance they are said to be the eyes and ears of the

1. Standing committees are those that are appointed to take charge of
all subjects of a certain character during a session, or other specified

2. Select committees are appointed to take charge of some one thing, and
when that is finished they are dissolved, although they may be revived
again by a vote of the assembly.

In appointing a committee, the first thing is to fix on a number: if
several are named, the largest should be put first. The committees may
be chosen by ballot; appointed by the chair; or elected by nomination
and vote. The latter is the regular mode when there is no special rule,
but the second is most frequently practised. Sometimes a committee is
appointed to nominate all other committees, but this is not usually the
case. The mover and seconder of a resolution should have place on a
committee appointed to consider it, and, as a general rule, none but
those who are friendly to the object to be accomplished should be
appointed. Those opposed can make their opposition when it is returned
to the assembly.

It is the duty of the secretary of the assembly to make out a list of
the members of a committee, and hand to the person first named on it,
who is its chairman, unless the committee shall choose to elect another.

The assembly can fix the times and places of the meeting of a committee;
if this is not done, it can choose for itself, but cannot sit while the
assembly is in session without a special order.

In all forms of procedure the committee is governed by the same rules as
the assembly, but a little less strictness is observed in their

Disorderly conduct in a committee can only be noted down and reported to
the assembly.

When any paper has been referred to a committee, it must be returned as
it was, with proposed amendments written separately. They cannot reject
any matter, but can return it to the assembly without change, stating
their reasons for taking no action.

When a committee is prepared to report, its chairman announces the fact,
and he, or an other member, may make a motion that the report be
received at that, or some other specified time. If nothing is said, it
is assumed that the assembly is ready to receive it immediately.

At the time fixed, the chairman reads the report, and passes it, with
all the papers belonging to it, to the secretary’s table, where it
awaits the action of the assembly.

Any report from a committee may be treated by amendment, etc., just as
if it originated in the assembly.

The final question is on the adoption of the report; if this is agreed
to, it stands as the action of the whole assembly.

3. The third form of committee is the “committee of the whole.” It
embraces the entire assembly. When the assembly wishes to go into
committee, a motion to that effect is made, seconded, and put; if
carried, the chairman nominates a person as chairman of the committee,
who takes his seat at the secretary’s table. The chairman of the
assembly must remain at hand in readiness to resume his seat when the
committee shall rise. The secretary does not record the proceedings of
the committee, but only their report. A special secretary must be
appointed for their use.

The following are the main points of difference between the “committee
of the whole” and the assembly:

1. The previous question cannot be moved, but the committee may rise and
thus stop debate.

2. The committee cannot adjourn; it may rise, report progress, and ask
leave to sit again.

3. In committee a member may speak as often as he can get the floor; in
the assembly, but once.

4. The committee cannot refer a matter to another committee.

5. The chairman of the assembly can take part in committee proceedings.

6. The committee has no power to punish its members, but can report

When the committee is prepared to close, a motion is made and seconded
that it rise; if carried, the chairman leaves his seat, the chairman of
the assembly takes his usual place, and the committee report is given in
the same form as from a special committee.

                  *       *       *       *       *

This brief synopsis has been compiled from various sources. The
excellent manuals of Cushing and Matthias have been especially
consulted. It is believed to embrace all that is essential for
conducting business in ordinary assemblies. The man who masters these
simple rules, which may be done in a few hours, is prepared to assist in
the performance of any public business, and if called upon to act as
chairman, as any one may be, he will be free from embarrassment.


                Sent Prepaid by Post at Prices Annexed.

                            A LIST OF WORKS
                              PUBLISHED BY
              SAMUEL R. WELLS, No. 389 BROADWAY, NEW YORK.

                  *       *       *       *       *

                     STANDARD WORKS ON PHRENOLOGY.

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  =Constitution of Man=; Considered in Relation to External Objects.
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  =Defence of Phrenology=; Containing an Essay on the Nature and Value
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  =Education=: Its Elementary Principles founded on the Nature of Man.
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  This book comprises the whole of Mr. Fowler’s series of popular
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  These are the reported lectures on Phrenology delivered by George
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  A scientific expositor of the laws of man’s social and matrimonial
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  =Memory and Intellectual Improvement=, applied to Self-Educational
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  This is the third and last of Mr. Fowler’s series of popular
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  educate OURSELVES.

  =Mental Science.= Lectures on, according to the Philosophy of
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    12mo, 235 pp. Illustrated, $1 50.

  This is a most valuable acquisition to phrenological literature. It
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  =Phrenology Proved, Illustrated and Applied=; Embracing an analysis
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  This is the second work in the series of Mr. Fowler’s “Education and
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  =Self-Instructor in Phrenology and Physiology.= New Illustrated.
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  This is intended as a text-book, and is especially adapted to
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  =Moral Philosophy.= By GEORGE COMBE. Or, the Duties of Man
    considered in his Individual, Domestic and Social Capacities.
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  This work appears in the form of Lectures delivered by the Author to
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  =Annuals of Phrenology and Physiognomy.=—By S. R. WELLS, Editor of
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  This is a work consisting of three valuable lectures, part of an
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  =Phrenology and the Scriptures.=—Showing the Harmony existing
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  “A full explanation of many passages of Scripture.”—_New York

  =Phrenological Guide.=—Designed for Students of their own Character.
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                     STANDARD WORK ON PHYSIOGNOMY.

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                 Apparatus for Phrenological Lectures.

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  The entire list, numbering Forty of our best phrenological
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                          WORKS ON PHYSIOLOGY.

  =Food and Diet, A Treatise.=—With observations on the Dietetical
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  An important physiological work. Considerable pains have been taken
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                  *       *       *       *       *

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               Treatise on Punctuation               1 75

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                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

 1. Changed “wanted that what” to “wanted than what” on p. 155.
 2. No paragraph number 9 on p. 216.
 3. Silently corrected typographical errors.
 4. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.
 5. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.
 6. Enclosed bold font in =equals=.

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