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Nothing is so fatal to the effect of a sermon as the habit of preaching on three or four subjects at once."
No preacher who has definiteness of aim, or who heeds the apostolic injunction,-"I charge thee, therefore, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom, go preach the word," will begin each sermon either with the creation of the world or in the Garden of Eden. This same general principle applies in all other forms of art as well as in literature and oratory. Skilful painters require that much of the canvas shall be covered with neutral colors in order that the prominent colors and the principal figures may be the better defined and the more impressive. This, too, is nature's hint. She presents over head the soft blue of the sky, and about us and beneath our feet the green verdure and the gray rocks; her pet objects will be thus the better outlined.49
4. He must be able to seize upon what is passing. This ability depends largely upon quick perceptions and perfect coolness. It is skill like that of a military genius whom no emergency or change of movement on the part of the enemy can surprise, and who can turn everything that would be a surprise to the common mind into personal advantage. See Matt. vi. 26: Acts xvii. 22, 23; xxiii. 6; xxvi. 28, 29.
5. He must believe in the cause advocated. "The shoemaker cannot work beyond his last," is a suggestive and widely applicable adage.
"I have heard an experienced counsellor say that he never feared the effect upon a jury of a lawyer who does not believe in his heart that his client ought to have a verdict. If he does not believe it, his unbelief will appear to the jury, despite of all his protestations, and will become their unbelief. This is that law whereby a work of art, of whatever kind, sets us in the same state of mind wherein the artist was when he made it. That which we do not believe, we cannot adequately say, though we may repeat the words never so often. It was this conviction which Swedenborg expressed, when he described a group of persons in the spiritual world, endeavoring in vain to articulate a proposition which they did not believe; but they could not, though they twisted and folded their lips even to indignation."
When the speaker advocates what he does not thoroughly believe, the audience will feel that something is out of joint, the mischiefs of hypocrisy will taint the orator's spirit, and much bad elocution will result; there will be unnaturalness, formality, selfconsciousness, and a whole brood of other elocutionary vices.
6. He must be determined to win his case. Rufus Choate used to say, "I always go in for the verdict." "A great speech," O'Connell once said, in speaking of forensic discourses, "is a very fine thing; but, after all, the verdict is THE thing.' When the orator can say, I will go through this speech, or I will hold the attention of this people, or I will gain the verdict, he is close upon the borders of success.
The orator must, therefore, cultivate will-power by keeping the will in constant exercise through moral and righteous determination. And he must be true to himself. He who violates his moral convictions does what the athlete would do did he cut his sinews at the wrist.
It is not difficult, at this point, to trace additional analogies between oratory and military science. Paul Jones, when half his men lay dead or wounded upon his vessel's deck, his guns having been dismounted and his flag shot away, was hailed by a British officer, who shouted, "Have you surrendered?" Jones, climbing up the rope ladder with a hammer and a nail in his hand, shouted, “No! I have just begun to fight!"
General McPherson, who acted as chief of staff to General Grant during the battle of Pittsburg Landing thus describes the disasters of the first day's fighting:
"I had been compelled from hour to hour during the whole day to be the bearer of bad news to the chief. It was a succession of reverses from morning till night. When night came on, and it was becoming too dark for the enemy to continue the fight, I rode up to Grant, who coolly said to me, 'Well, Mac, how do things look?''Bad enough, general. We have lost, I think, about one half our artillery and at least a third of the infantry. Our line is broken in several places, and we are pushed back, as you see, pretty near the bank of the river.' Grant made no reply, and I, becoming a little impatient, finally said to him, 'Well, general, under these circumstances, what do you intend to do?' 'Do! why, I shall reform the line, and attack them at daybreak. Won't they be surprised!' Grant executed
his plan to the letter, and before nine o'clock next morning the enemy was flying in every direction."
"Possunt quia posse videntur”
who believe they can.
for they can conquer
7. His self-assertion should be supplemented by entire self-renunciation. "Bold in his cause,
modest in himself," is the oratorical law. It is a Hindoo saying that "large rivers, great trees, wholesome plants, and the most worthy persons, are not born for themselves, but to be of service to others." The greatest and the most rapid growth in manhood is through a self-renunciation that yields to noble impulses and purposes. "What so kingly," says Cicero, "so liberal, so munificent, as to give assistance to the suppliant, to raise the afflicted, to bestow security, and to deliver from danger?”
When the secular orator, in advocating measures whose results will be either desirable or beneficial, can hide himself; when he can voice things, or become like John in the wilderness, or be a tongue of fire; and when the preacher by leaving himself out of the pulpit and by putting the Master into it, can assert the truth and surrender to it, then everything touched is exalted, and a halo is above the head of the orator.