Page images
PDF
EPUB

greatly deceived, there are some general principles here, which admit of very few exceptions. And one of these I believe to be, that, when we are about to make a great exertion, especially in speaking, a state of repletion is so far from being advantageous, that it is directly the reverse. Try it when you will, you will find that, when your aliment on the Sabbath is more light in its quality, and smaller in quantity, than on other days, you will go through the labours of the day with more ease and vivacity, with far less subsequent fatigue, and feel much better the next day, than when you take an opposite course. Of all mistakes on this subject, that is the greatest, which dreams of deriving unusual strength and animation for the labours of the pulpit, from an usual indulgence in the use of solid food.

3. Never habituate yourself to the use of any of those tonics, nourishing draughts, and clearers of the voice, of which many make such abundant use. I have known some preachers, who abounded so much in the use of eggs, and honey, and mint-drops, and spirits of lavender, and wine, and sugar-candy, &c. &c., immediately before going to the pulpit, that, when abroad, and among those who were not accustomed to their habits, they were really troublesome guests. And I not long since read a work, entitled Medicina Clerica, from the pen of an English clergyman, in which the writer makes preparation for entering the pulpit so complicated a system; in which he recommends such a long list of drops, and lozenges, and stimulants, and remedies for hoarseness, and such an endless round of indulgences and plans for "ease and comfort,” that the perusal of his book appears to me

much better adapted to teach a man how to make himself a hypochondriac, than a powerful, active preacher. The truth is, young preachers do not stand in need of any of these things, and ought not to use them. They are seldom necessary for any one who does not make them so, by improper management. If you ask me, what plan I would recommend for keeping the lips and mouth sufficiently moist, and for clearing the voice, in the pulpit, my answer is, I would recommend—just nothing at all. Avoid the use of any thing for this purpose. Guard against the miserable servitude of having a dozen little wants, all of which must be supplied before you can ascend the sacred desk. Endeavour, by temperance and exercise, to preserve in vigour your general health, and then, unless some organic disease should render some application to the mouth or throat necessary, you will do much better without any thing of the kind. The truth is, this is one of the numerous cases in which the more you make use of the auxiliaries of which I speak, the more indispensably necessary to your comfort they will be likely to become, until you may convert your study into an apothecary's shop, and render yourself a poor feeble valetudinarian, by the very efforts which you make to avoid the evil. On this subject I speak from experience. In the early part of my ministry, I abounded in the use of prescriptions for strengthening and clearing the voice. I soon discovered, however, that the only effect of them was to increase the difficulty which they were intended to remedy; and to render an increase both in the frequency and quantity of the applications indispensable. Alarmed at this discovery, I determined to lay them

all aside. I did so; and found, when the first little inconvenience of the privation had passed away, that I was able to do better without than with them. And now, with a delightful independence of all my former little wants, for which I cannot be sufficiently thankful, I usually go to the pulpit more comfortably, without a single medical or dietetical application, than before with a host of them.

4. Go from your knees to the pulpit. The more thoroughly your mind is steeped, if I may be allowed the expression, in the spirit of prayer, and of communion with God, when you ascend the sacred desk, the more easy and delightful will it be to preach; the more rich and spiritual will your preaching be; the more fervent and natural your eloquence; and the greater the probability that what you say will be made a blessing. Be assured, my dear young friend, after all the rules and instructions which have been given on the subject of pulpit eloquence—and which in their place have great value — that which unspeakably outweighs all the rest in importance, is, that you go to the sanctuary with a heart full of your subject; warmed with love to your Master, and to immortal souls; remembering too, that the eye of the Master is upon you; and that of the sermon which you are about to deliver, you must soon give an account before his judgment-seat. With these sentiments in full force, it is always desirable, both for your own sake and that of others, that you should enter the pulpit. And I know of no means more likely to produce them, than humble importunity before the throne of grace.

5. Make a point of being as perfectly punctual as possible in attending at the appointed hour for public

service. A punctual minister makes a punctual congregation. Whereas if the minister be tardy, or variable, as to the time of his attendance, he scarcely ever fails to induce a similar habit on the part of his parishioners. The consequence of this is, that a considerable portion of them seldom arrive till the service is nearly half over; thereby diminishing their own profit, and disturbing the devotions of those who are more punctual than themselves. With regard to country congregations, other evils, quite as serious, flow from this unhappy practice. The people are frequently permitted by the minister to wait for his arrival half an hour, and sometimes longer, after the major part of them are assembled. This interval, , instead of being spent profitably, by the mass of the attendants, is commonly passed in vain and unprofitable conversation, if not in that which is of a worse character; communications take place which render the minds of many wholly unfit for the solemn services which follow, and perhaps lead to injurious engagements, after those services are ended. Thus, in many cases, incalculable mischief is done. I would advise you to accustom the people, by your own example, to absolute punctuality. Endeavour to be always seated in the pulpit a few minutes before the arrival of the time appointed for commencing the service. Begin precisely at the time, or, at any rate, within five minutes after it, even if you have but a dozen hearers. Wait for no one.

If this plan be adopted and persisted in, and notice given accordingly, you will soon be rid of all trouble from this source: and many precious hours will be saved to yourself, as well as to the people of your charge.

6. Let your mode of entering the house of God, and of walking along the aisle, toward the pulpit, be grave, dignified, and yet perfectly simple and unaffected. Few things are more unbecoming, than to see an ambassador of Christ, who enters the sanctuary for the purpose of conducting the devotions of a religious assembly, and of addressing them on the most momentous of all subjects, walking with hurried steps, or in a light, airy manner; looking over the house, as he enters it, as if in search of an acquaintance; and perhaps, even bowing to those who are seated near him as he passes. All this I have frequently seen, and never without disapprobation and disgust. How much more suitable, to manifest the spirit and feelings of the pulpit before you enter it; to approach it with a deliberate and grave step, with a serious and fixed countenance, and taking but little notice of any external objects around you! Do not, in these circumstances, even accost an individual, if you can easily avoid it. And instead of mounting the pulpit steps with a rapidity, or an affectation of gracefulness, approaching the artificial skip of a dancing-master, let it always be done with that mixture of gravity and gentleness, which I have elsewhere recommended as so important in every part of clerical manners.

7. Let every look, motion, and attitude in the pulpit correspond with the gravity of your character, and the solemn purpose for which you ascended it. Let there be no roving of the eyes over the assembly, as if to gratify curiosity, to search for acquaintances, or to indulge vanity at the sight of a crowd. Let there be no adjustment of the dress, as if you were anxious

« PreviousContinue »