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go over a vast deal of ground in a quarter of a century; would feed their flocks richly with "knowledge and understanding," and would at the same time “ grow up themselves, into the stature of perfect men.” May your friends who survive you find many series of well studied and eminently devout and scriptural sermons on the most important topics, among your manuscripts.
I am very affectionately, &c.
MY DEAR E.
I need not tell you, that a great deal depends upon the manner, as well as the matter of your preachingupon the delivery as well as the preparation of your
If you must be deficient anywhere, I had rather have it in the form, than the power ; in the speaking, than in the doctrine; in the utterance, than in the thoughts. Still the manner is important. Always begin on a low key, and speak very slow at first, especially in a large house, or indeed in any house, to which you are not accustomed. This is the only way to try your voice, and get a perfect command of it. Some of the remotest of the congregation may
not be able to hear the first sentence or two quite perfectly, I know; but if you enunciate every syllable distinctly, and linger as it were, for a moment, till every voice is hushed and every eye is fixed, hardly a word will be lost. Having commenced in this manner, you will find no difficulty in gradually raising your voice and increasing the volume of sound, so as to fill almost any church with great ease.
But if you strike a high note the very first sentence, and speak rapidly, you will from that moment lose the control of your voice. You cannot come down to a lower key, however sensible you may be of your mistake, or however anxious to correct it.
You can rise and strain your organs more
and more, till you are perfectly exhausted; but you cannot fall a note. Whoever may perceive your embarrassment and perspiration, and pity you, there you are, beyond the reach of help. Under such circumstances, proper inflections, cadences and emphasis are out of the question. Every thing is forced and unnatural. You have put yourself into a strait jacket, and you must wear it. Now this is entirely unnecessary. You have only to begin with short sentences and with a natural tone and pitch of voice, and your kindling emotions will do the rest. Some ministers complain of the weakness of their lungs and the extreme fatigue of preaching, who would find that they have vocal power enough for any ordinary place of worship, if they would only learn how to begin.
In public speaking, whatever may be the compass of your voice, let your articulation be distinct. This is essential to good speaking in the pulpit and everywhere else. Some preachers who have voice enough to speak to the waves in a storm, and who almost deafen you with their thunder, are not understood for want of proper enunciation; while the clear mellow tones of others, who cannot make half the noise, fall upon the ear like sweet music, and every word is understood. I know a living preacher, whose whisper can be heard and make the blood of his audience thrill, in every part of the largest churches.
There is hardly any bad habit of speaking, against which I would more earnestly warn you, than that of falling into a pulpit tone in your preaching. I can
not tell you exactly what I mean by a pulpit tone, but I believe you understand me perfectly. If not, whenever you hear a sort of affected monotonous solemnity, which, instead of moving your affections, either lulls you to sleep, or makes you nervous, you will know what I mean. Many pious and sensible preachers fall unconsciously into a tone, both in their prayers and sermons, which destroys half their useful
Their characters are above suspicion, their doctrines are sound and their discourses are well studied. But many, who would otherwise listen to them with pleasure, cannot endure their delivery; and from the majority of every congregation it takes away more than half the pleasure, if not the profit of their public ministrations. This great drawback upon their usefulness is unnecessary. No one need contract the habit, against which I am warning you. It is easily avoided, though hard to cure; and it is greatly to be desired, that every young preacher might have some one sufficiently watchful and friendly, to give him timely warning.
There is also a stately oratorical monotony in preaching, of a very different character, against which I would put you on your guard. The voice of the preacher is clear and strong; his enunciation is distinct ; his cadences and inflections are very good ; his attitude is dignified, and his gestures are natural; but after all he is not an interesting speaker. There is no variety in his tones and cadences. Like a well trained grenadier he marches with a measured tread through the whole exercise. Every sentence, taken by itself, is spoken extremely well; but the grand
difficulty is, it is spoken just like every other sentence, on the same key, just as loud and no louder, and with the same measured rising and falling slides from the beginning to the end of the discourse. Now monotony in the pulpit, as well as everywhere else, is always tiresome, and always will be. Good pulpit eloquence, without changing the tones and inflections of the voice, so as to make them correspond with the sentiments expressed and the emotions which we wish to excite, is a contradiction in terms. The finest voice and the finest modulations, that ever broke upon the ravished ear of a great assembly, if they did not rise and swell and die away like the waves in obedience to the spirit of the storm, would soon fatigue every hearer. Better to violate half the canons of rhetorical criticism in following nature, though it be in an awkward and blundering manner, than to rock your congregation to a dignified repose, by the stately lullaby which I have been attempting to describe. Not that this is the necessary alternative. Far from it. Let almost any preacher bestow a reasonable degree of pains upon the training of his voice ; let him consider that he is a “legate of the skies," an ambassador for God; let him enter into the spirit of his high commission ; let him yield to
l the irrepressible yearnings of compassion for perishing souls, and he will speak well. What
from the heart will reach the heart.
In all your preaching be deeply serious. What can be more entirely out of place, what can be more disgusting, more irreverent, than levity in the pulpit. Terribly, but most deservedly has the great christian