Abbildungen der Seite

should be the most rigid preparation, and in some instances careful memorization. As the speaker gains experience he will find himself more and more able to speak with less detailed preparation, and finally he may be able to do well from merely a clearly defined brief.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said: "The orator-I do not mean the poor slave of a manuscript, who takes his thought chilled and stiffened from its mold, or the impassioned speaker who pours it forth corruscating from the furnace -the orator only becomes our master at the moment when he is himself captured, taken possession of by a sudden rush of fresh inspiration. How well we know the flash of the eye, the thrill of the voice, which are the signature and symbol of nascent thought-thought just entering into consciousness, in which condition, as in the case of the chemist's elements, it has a combining force at other times wholly unknown."

This certainly is a plea for the extemporaneous style. This form of address has the advantage of being more conversational and direct than the reading style. It enables the speaker to take constant note of the effect he is producing upon his audience, and to change his method and arrangement to meet unexpected conditions. There is a freshness and a spontaneity about this style that pleases and fascinates an audience, which can not usually be said of the cold made-to-order phraseology of the manuscript speaker. The extemporaneous style gives the speaker unlimited scope for timely observation, the introduction of new illustrations and arguments, for repetition of ideas when required by special circumstances, and numerous other advantages. If the whole man should speak, how can this be done if his eyes are glued to a written page?

There is also the question of the vast amount of time that would be saved by the speaker and minister if he could so train himself as not to be obliged to memorize his addresses. Beecher's words regarding the preacher apply also to the average public speaker, who spends days and nights in toil and anxiety over his forthcoming address. Beecher says: "We do not desire to have preaching made less thorough or less instructive, but it is desirable that it should be less burdensome. Many and many a minister is a prisoner all the week to his two sermons. In them he has poured his whole life, and when they are done there is little of him left for pastoral labors and social life. Few men there are who are upborne and carried forward by their sermons. Few men ascend, as the prophet did, in a chariot of fire. The majority of preachers are consciously harnessed, and draw heavily and long at the sermon, which tugs behind them. In every way, then, it is desirable that preaching should be made more easy, that men should learn to take advantage of their own temperament, and that they should learn the best plans and methods."

Henry Ward Beecher was himself the ideal type of extemporaneous speaker. Dr. Wilkinson pays this high tribute to him: "Mr. Beecher's genius had its own elements and its own accompaniments. What are these? One accompaniment was a well-tempered, wonderfully elastic, wonderfully responsive body. This he cared for scrupulously, to maintain it at the highest point of effectiveness. His voice was a living instrument, in native power unsurpassed, and never impaired through ill-health in the owner. Every muscle of his flesh, every bone and nerve and sinew of his frame, the very blood in throat and cheek and brow, was absolutely obedient to the demand of the

orator; and the demand of the orator was immense, for Mr. Beecher's instinct of mimicry was boundless. From long habit on Mr. Beecher's part, of absolute command over audiences, his face grew leonine in expression, and the leonine expression itself was constantly more and more a means of such command. Audiences love to be masteredby a master; and they easily recognize a master by his looks.'' 1

It is true that there are some men who can never hope to become successful extemporaneous speakers. These, of course, must continue to use their manuscript, and forego the advantages of the other style. Doctor Storrs tells of his struggle and determination to acquire the ability to speak without notes. He joined a debating society and during his seminary course did everything he could to advance himself in this way, but with little success. He speaks of his first public efforts to preach without notes as like swimming up the rapids. Then he experimented by having some notes before him, or a "skeleton" of his discourse, but he felt himself worse off than ever. For him, at least, this method proved a failure, obstructing the freedom, freshness, and vigor of his thought. The manuscript in any form, however slight, checked his spontaneity, made him jerky and self-conscious, so that at last he gave himself up wholly to a determined effort to speak entirely without notes of any kind. He refers to the first sermon he preached in Brooklyn thus: "I was called upon unexpectedly for the service, as I was passing through the city, and when I had with me no manuscript sermons. But I had a subject in mind on which I had written not long before, in which I had been at the time much interested, and

1 William Cleaver Wilkinson, Masters of Pulpit Discourse.

of which I had made a thorough analysis. The course of thought pursued in the sermon was fresh in my mind, tho the notes were not with me. I preached in a lectureroom, which was wholly filled with attentive hearers. I had no sort of fear of the congregation, which was entirely made up of strangers to me; and I found as I went on, in the treatment of the subject with which I had made myself previously familiar, that the mind worked with a facility, a force, a sense of exhilaration, which I never had had in reading from a manuscript. I enjoyed the service, and had a certain sense of Christian success in it. The people were interested, and their interest had an instant reflex influence upon my own mind, so that the success became duplicated. It seemed to me, at the end, that it must be always easy and pleasant, under similar conditions, to repeat that experiment,'

[ocr errors]

Notwithstanding this promising experience, however, the first sermon he preached there, after his installation, was, to use his own words, "nearly a dead failure." Perhaps he had overprepared himself, like the overtrained athlete. There was too much dependence upon verbal memory, and too little upon spontaneous expression. But for sixteen years he persevered and at last was rewarded with the satisfaction of having achieved his long-cherished purpose. These experiences he sets forth most interestingly in the lectures embodied in his book.

In recommending the extemporaneous style of speaking or preaching, too much emphasis can not be placed upon the necessity of the most thorough preparation of the subject matter. There should be the same amount of care and industry and faithfulness as is given to an address in

1 Richard S. Storrs, Preaching Without Notes.

tended to be read. The speaker should, indeed, write out his speeches in detail, even tho he does not intend to speak from his notes.

Phillips Brooks does not believe in an arbitrary rule in this matter. He thinks some men are made for manuscripts, and some for the open platform. "To exclude either class from the ministry," he says, "or to compel either class to use the methods of the other, would rob the pulpit by silencing some of its best men." But according to Cardinal Newman, the manuscript, when used, needs an apology. He says: "While, then, a preacher will find it becoming and advisable to put into writing any important discourse beforehand, he will find it equally a point of propriety and expedience not to read it in the pulpit. I am not of course denying his right to use a manuscript, if he wishes; but he will do well to conceal it, as far as he can, unless, which is the most effectual concealment, whatever be its counterbalancing disadvantages, he prefers, mainly not verbally, to get it by heart. To conceal it, indeed, in one way or other, will be his natural impulse; and this very circumstance seems to show us that to read a sermon needs an apology. For, why should he commit it to memory, or conceal his use of it, unless he felt that it was more natural, more decorous, to do without it? And so again, if he employs a manuscript, the more he appears to dispense with it, the more he looks off from it, and directly addresses his audience, the more will he be considered to preach; and, on the other hand, the more will he be judged to come short of preaching the more sedulous he is in following his manuscript line after line, and by the tone of his voice makes it clear that he has got it safely before him. What is this but a popular testimony to the fact

« ZurückWeiter »