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its methods. In the belief of some, extemporaneous preaching means talking in the pulpit on religious subjects at random—without knowledge, forethought or the slightest plan of discourse. It is possible that here and there a Preacher may get into a pulpit who deserves this sarcastic description. But such miserable exceptions cannot weigh against the great body of thoughtful and careful extemporaneous Preachers. The few who preach without thought are soon lost in the confusion of their own gabble, and either pass into oblivion or are held in well-merited contempt.
Extemporaneous preaching does not mean the entire abandonment of the use of the memory. It is impossible for a Minister of accurate thought and earnest conviction to preach without the use of his memory. Certain catch phrases, occasional sentences, and sometimes whole paragraphs spring up in the mind of the speaker, and they so excite him and impress him as to burn themselves so indelibly into his recollection that he would find it impossible to forget them. Such words and phrases require no effort to recall them, They spring up spontaneously in the soul, and rush unbidden through the lipe, as naturally as the air one breathes. Every extemporaneous Preacher knows that there are parts of his discourse which complete themselves during the delivery of the sermon without any effort of his own.
The sermon Reader reads his discourse from paper ; the memoriter Preacher reads his from the tablets of his memory. The sermon Reader turns his bodily eyes to his manuscript; the memoriter Preacher looks inward and threads his way through the unseen hieroglyphics of his recollection. The extemporaneous Preacher, after more or less preparation, discourses on the subject he has chosen as thoughts and language come to him when in the act of discourse ; he follows with more or less closeness the route he had previously determined to pursue. He neither rejects his memory nor depends upon it; and he is neither a slave to a plan of discourse, nor without one. It is not necessary to construct an elaborate and exhaustive definition of extemporaneous preaching. The brief sketch already given will suffice. But before the advantages and value of extemporaneous discourse in the pulpit can be exactly ascertained, it is needful to weigh certain objections which are commonly urged against the practice.
The advocates of extemporaneous preaching are often told that it leads to insufficient preparation. Let us know what is meant by the phrase-An unprepared Preacher. Does it mean one who has taken no pains to inform himself upon the subject about which to discourse before the people? If such be a Preacher's babit, he is unfit for the sacred office, and ought to be dismissed. Unforeseen cares and engagements may interfere with the arrangements of the most conscientious Ministers. In the uncertainties and afflictions of this life, it is impossible that all Ministers should be at all times equally well prepared to preach. Yet what is there in extemporaneous preaching that either naturally or morally conduces to insufficient preparation? The only thing that can be said in answer to this question is, that when a Preacher has the gift of extemporaneous discourse, he is in danger of taking advantage of it against both his audience and himself. Yielding to natural indolence, or engrossed with matters foreign to pulpit preparation, he neither occupies his time nor his strength in storing his mind and heart with those treasures of thought and emotion out of which to produce his sermon when his preaching-hour arrives. No conscientious and earnest Minister can fall into these evil habits ; not only because they are inconsistent with the sacredness of his vocation, but because they are incompatible with the acquisition and use of the gift of extemporaneous preaching. No right-minded man will be induced to neglect the proper preparation of his discourses; and a Preacher who does not duly feel the importance of his work, will not be induced to prepare his sermons thoroughly, no matter what method he may employ.
It is objected against the general use of the extemporaneous method of preaching, that all have not the natural gift. Let this be conceded at once. It is much more easy for some than for others to preach extemporaneously. Yet it is more a question of practice than of nature. If a man believes he ought to occupy the pulpit, he ought at least to justify his belief by proving himself possessed of the qualifications necessary to enable him to discharge in an efficient manner the duties of his high vocation. Crediting the majority of Preachers with such qualifications, it is reasonable to say that it is not impossible for them to become acceptable and useful extemporaneous Preachers. The faculty of extemporaneous speech is one of the earliest gifts of nature to mankind. Watch children at play, listen behind the nurserydoor, or observe them while they tell to their mother the story of some new joy, pouring out a stream of words and thoughts as fast as their tongues can move,
you will see that we begin the world as extemporaneous speakers, and if we could keep the innocence and the flowing emotions of childhood, there is no reason why we should not go on exercising this natural gift to the end of our days. For the highest triumphs of the human soul, genius is required, but all ordinary human excellencies may be acquired to a valuable extent by men and women of good understanding and persevering industry.
In sermons, ideas may be compared to fruit, and words to the leaves; and it is sometimes said that the extemporaneous tree grows far more leaves than fruit; that occasionally the product is all leaves and no fruit, like that of the barren fig-tree. But both in public and in private it is too frequently the lot of listeners to find more leaves than fruit. Verbiage in the pulpit is very wearisome, and an injustice both to the theme and the audience. Congregations expect to be fed on something better than leaves. Preachers to whom words come easily, are in danger of becoming mere fluent speakers; yet there is a natural tendency in the evil to correct itself. The Preacher whose discourse is only a garrulous flow of jingling words will very soon find himself disliked.
It is held by some, that exactness of statement and closeness of reasoning cannot be as perfectly secured in extemporaneous as in written discourse, and therefore extemporaneous preaching ought not to be practised. The premises may be accepted while the conclusion is declined. Logicians wishing to reach the highest style of their art would have recourse to writing, and to rewriting; sentences would be taken to pieces and put together again, and the work of reconstruction would be continued until human skill could do no more. But, is an exhibition of such workmanship the great mission of the pulpit? Are sermons to be listened to only by the most highly cultured ? Sermons, generally speaking, are for the multitude, and not for the few.
It is the duty of every Preacher, in all the ordinary circumstances of Churchlife, to seek the greatest good of the greatest number; and we are not to be told in sober earnest that such an end can always be best gained by severe closeness of reasoning. Bishop Butler's masterly sermons have their use, but were all sermons like them, it would be a calamity to the universal Church. A certain diffuseness is necessary for a successful address to the multitude. People's heads must not be made to ache with strained attention. The charm of a sermon for the populace is that it holds their minds in agreeable and vigorous exercise, and this is one of the special advantages of extemporaneous preaching
Extemporaneous Preachers have sometimes, in the heat or carelessness of the moment, said rash and injurious things, and instances of indiscretion are strongly pleaded against the practice. In moments of excitement and inadvertence most people are in danger of saying things which they afterwards regret. This danger of abandon is not peculiar to the pulpit, neither does it work more mischief in the Church than elsewhere, provided the Christian spirit is maintained. An occasional slip cannot be pleaded fairly against a method beneficial in its general results. Besides, if the freedom is dangerous on the one side, it is frequently glorious on the other. Some of the finest and most useful things ever uttered in the pulpit have been wholly unpremeditated. They have lighted up the soul with a glow as of inspiration, such as would never have been caught in the quiet routine of the study.
Extemporaneous discourse does not give opportunity for a polished and finished style of composition. Neither the file nor the square can be applied to the sparks as they are smitten from the anvil, but the heat is of more value than the polish which comes of the long process of smoothing and lubrication. If sermons were only intended for the refined and the cultured, and if their finish constituted their sole efficacy, no man should preach extemporaneously ; but the use of a sermon is very different from that of a gem of art. Lens enduring in itself, a sermon ought to be more enduring in its efficacious results than the best mere work of art can ever be, although the artist may have painted .for eternity.' The Christian Church is not an art-gallery. The object of preaching is the moral and religious good of mankind, and not the satisfaction of critics. How many young Preachers, in the folly of their early inexperience, have sighed for an educated congregation ; a cụltured people, who could appreciate the rich genius and the classical finish of the youthful aspirant after pulpit fame! For the generality of Preachers, highlyeducated congregations are not to be found. Take the professional and literary men out of our congregations, and the bulk of what is left will not constitute a mass of high culture and intelligence. The best congregations contain little more than a sprinkling of high culture, and the many are not to be neglected for the sake of the few. The Minister who wishes to have only a highly-educated audience had better compose his sermons in Greek, and publish them through the press ; and if the Greek pulpit pay the bill of the printer it will be a marvel of success. Ministers sufficiently educated for their work will be able to preach extempore without offending against the principles of good taste.
It has been contended, as against extemporaneous preaching, that few of its disciples have ever attained to great success. To this objection the answer is obvious : the method is not put forward as a royal road along which every Preacher may travel to greatness and high renown. It is enough if the method of extemporaneous preaching makes the majority of those who practise it more useful in the pulpit than they would be by any other plan. In every walk of life, greatness must ever be the lot of the few; for if everybody were great, 'nobody would be great as compared with his contemporaries
. Every one of these objections may be urged against the two other methods of pulpit discourse. Are all written sermons sufficiently prepared ? May there not be crude and uninformed writing as well as speaking? If all have not the natural gift of speaking, may it not be quite as truly said that all are not naturally gifted either with a good memory or great aptitude for literary composition. The memoriter Preacher is more likely to be guilty of wordiness than the extemporaneous. One great bar to literary success is 8 wordy style. The lack of exactness of statement and closeness of reasoning too often characterize the written and recited sermon. The recited sermon, owing to sudden lapses and confusion of memory, is not more secure from danger of misstatement than the extempore homily. A sermon is not necessarily polished because it is written, neither has it the highest literary finish because it happens to be delivered from memory. And as to few attaining to great eminence in extemporaneous preaching, the like paucity of greatness is manifest among those who read their sermons and those who repeat them from memory.
Having cleared away some of the objections to the practice of extemporaneous preaching, we may now state (its advantages. We propose to show that the extemporaneous method is the best for the accomplishment of the true ends of preaching. A discourse intended for a learned audience, and for the purpose of scientific instruction only, may be read to the advantage of the savans who listen to it. They expect close, condensed reasoning without appeal to their sympathies and passions, or attempts at persuasion. Yet even they do not make sure of the instruction until they have read the paper in print for themselves. Take the case of the Bampton Lectures. Who that wished to master the questions discussed would be satisfied with merely hearing them read by the lecturer ? The book must be studied if its contents are to be mastered. But scientific teachers and Bampton Lecturers would be
far more successful if they gave outlines of their arguments extemporaneously and afterwards printed them in full. If the audience meant no more than hearing, they would take away with them more information than if the entire lectures were read, and if they intended the subsequent mastery of the problems by studying the published work, they would be greatly assisted by the outline. Even in the exceptional instances of pulpit exercise where instruction is the exclusive object, the extempore is more effective than the read discourse. But who will contend that because written and read discourses are considered best for dry, close-reasoned, scientific instruction, they are therefore best for the purposes of popular teaching and persuasion in all the pulpits of Christendom?
Let us ask ourselves frankly, What are the true ends of preaching in general ? Preaching is neither acting nor reciting. The Preacher is not even an orator by profession ; neither can it be said with justice to the sacredness of his high vocation, that he is merely a public instructor. He must be an instructor, and he may be an orator. The great object of preaching is to help men through this world to a better ; or, speaking more in detail, it is to' explain, defend and enforce the truth that God has given; to warn men against sin, to establish them in righteousness, to fit them for all the duties of this life, to moderate their jogs, to comfort them in their sorrows, to cheer them to noble life through hours of darkness, and to prepare them for that mysterious future life which is the triumphant revelation of the Christian faith, Preaching is indissolubly associated with these objects; it has been so from the beginning; it will be so to the end. No culture, no intelligence on the part of the masses of mankind will ever supersede the pulpit; for as long as the heart has woes; as long as men need a Saviour and the Light of life, and to be reminded of the things which are most touching and precious to the human race through all the range of its hope and fear; as long as mankind love that which is pure and just and wise and good, and hate what is false and foul; as long as they wish to keep the danger-signals flying through the storms of life,—60 long will they wish to look into the eyes of a Preacher, to hear his truthful voice, and to feel his heart beat against their own, so long will they listen to preaching, and so long will the God and Father of us all raise up Preachers to supply this great want of humanity.
It only remains to ask, By what methods are the ends of preaching best accomplished? And even this question, marvellously fraught with human destiny as it is, must be narrowed in this paper.
Extemporaneous preaching is in itself, according to the writer's belief, best adapted to accomplish the ends of preaching. Speaking generally, that method seems to be the natural method. When men have anything to say, they naturally speak it out as occasion arises, and as it is called for by the continual activities of the mind; they do not write their conversation down before they begin, and then either commit it to memory and recite it, or else read it from the manuscript. The Minister, then, having something to communicate by word of mouth to his flock, should speak to them in the natural