Overview of Rhetorical Analysis
A RHETORICAL ANALYSIS REFERS TO THE PROCESS OF ANALYZING A TEXT, GIVEN SOURCE OR ARTIFACT. The text, source, or artifact may be in written form or in some different sort of communication. The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to take into consideration the purpose, audience, genre, stance, and media/design of the given rhetorical situation. In other words, the analysis explores not only what everything means in the given source (content), but also why the author wrote about it (the purpose), who the author is (background), how the piece was organized (structure), where and/or when it was published (forum), and the intended message conveyed to the audience (topic).
A rhetorical analysis is one of the more challenging assignments in any writing class. Students often confuse a rhetorical analysis with a review because both assignments work to analyze a text. However, a rhetorical analysis reserves judgment on whether they agree/disagree with the topic presented. A review, of course, invites the reviewer to critique how "good" or "bad" the content of the text is. The PROCESS of completing a rhetorical analysis requires the use of different rhetorical strategies. These strategies are: critical reading, strategies for effective communication, persuasive appeals, argumentation, and avoidance of logical fallacies. These specific strategies are discussed in depth throughout the remainder of this page.
The PURPOSE of a rhetorical analysis is to engage in critical thinking with the intention of effectively communicating an intended message to a predetermined audience. In order to successfully determine the intended message of a particular text a good question to guide your analysis is: how did the author craft his/her argument?
Rhetoric is a term that is widely used in many forms, and by itself can mean a great many things. Some use the term in association with political rhetoric, to name the voice and stance, as well as the language that becomes the nature of politics. Rhetoric can be thought of as the way in which you phrase what you are saying, and the forces that impact what you are saying. At its very core RHETORIC IS THE ABILITY TO EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATE AN INTENDED MESSAGE, whether it is via argumentation, persuasion, or another form of communication.
Critical reading is the first step in a rhetorical analysis. In order to make a reasonable and logical analysis, you need to apply critical reading skills to a text, given source, or artifact that you intend on analyzing. For example, when reading, you can break the whole text down into several parts. Then, try to determine what the writer is attempting to achieve with the message they are conveying to a predetermined audience; then work to identify the writing strategies s/he is using. Once the text, artifact or given source has been thoroughly analyzed you can determine whether the intended message was effectively communicated.
Reading critically does not simply mean being moved, affected, informed, influenced, and persuaded by a piece of writing; it is much more than that. It refers to analyzing and understanding of how the writing has achieved its effect on the audience. Some specific questions can guide you in your critical reading process. You can use them in reading the text, and if asked to, you can use them in writing a formal analysis. In terms of engaging in critical reading, it is important to begin with broad questions and then work towards asking more specific questions, but in the end the purpose of engaging in critical reading is so that as an analyzer you are asking questions that work to develop the purpose of the artifact, text, or given source you are choosing to analyze.
The following is a list of suggested questions that you may find useful for when you engage in critical reading. However, you do not need to apply all of these questions to every text, artifact, or given source. Rather, you may use them selectively according to the specific reading at hand. The main questions listed below are considered to be broad in nature; with the questions listed via bullet points underneath the broad questions are meant to get at more the specific details of the intended message. Please remember that this is simply one method for getting you started on reading (and then writing) more critically.
POTENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN ENGAGING IN CRITICAL READING:
What is the subject?
- Does the subject bring up any personal associations? Is it a controversial one?
What is the thesis (the overall main point)?
- How does the thesis interpret the subject? If asked, could you summarize the main idea?
Who is the intended audience?
- What values and/or beliefs do they hold that the writer could appeal to?
What is the tone of the text?
- What is your reaction to the text, emotional or rational (think of pathos)? Does this reaction change at all throughout the text?
What is the writer's purpose?
- To explain? Inform? Anger? Persuade? Amuse? Motivate? Sadden? Ridicule? Attack? Defend?
- Is there more than one purpose? Does the purpose shift at all throughout the text?
What methods does the writer use to develop his/her ideas?
- Narration? Description? Definition? Comparison? Analogy? Cause and Effect? Example?
- Why does the writer use these methods? Do these methods help in his/her development of ideas?
What pattern does the author use for the arrangement of ideas?
- Particular to general, broad to specific, spatial, chronological, alternating, or block?
- Does the format enhance or detract from the content? Does it help the piece along or distract from it?
Does the writer use adequate transitions to make the text unified and coherent?
- Do you think the transitions work well? In what ways do they work well?
Are there any patterns in the sentence structure that make the writer's purpose clear to you?
- What are these patterns like if there are some? Does the writer use any fragments or run-on sentences?
Is there any dialog and/or quotations used in the text?
- To what effect? For what purpose is this dialog or quotations used?
In what way does the writer use diction?
- Is the language emotionally evocative? Does the language change throughout the piece? How does the language contribute to the writer's aim?
Is there anything unusual in the writer's use of punctuation?
- What punctuation or other techniques of emphasis (italics, capitals, underlining, ellipses, parentheses) does the writer use?
- Is punctuation over- or under-used? Which marks does the writer use where, and to what effect?
Are there any repetitions of important terms throughout the text?
- Are these repetitions effective, or do they detract from the text?
Does the writer present any particularly vivid images that stand out?
- What is the effect of these images on the writer's purpose?
Are there any tropes--similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, comparisons, contrasts, etc. that are employed by the writer?
- When does he/she use them? For what reason(s)? Are those devices used to convey or enhance meaning?
Are there any other devices such as humor, wordplay, irony, sarcasm, understatement, or parody that are used in the text?
- Is the effect comic relief? Pleasure? Hysteria? Ridicule?
Is there any information about the background of the writer?
- Is the writer an acceptable authority on the subject? How do you know?
Basic Rhetorical Strategies for Effective Communication
After engaging in a critical analysis or reading of your intended artifact, text, or given source, the next step in the process of completing an effective rhetorical analysis is to discuss your discoveries. For the purposes of writing, when we refer to rhetoric, we often talk about it as the art of persuasion or the ability to communicate effectively. There are many different strategies a communicator may employ to effectively communicate his/her message to his/her intended audience. While the rhetorical strategies for effective communication are discussed in terms of writing about your findings, pertaining to your rhetorical analysis, it should be noted that these rhetorical strategies can be employed during the critical analysis or reading portion of your rhetorical analysis project.
Below is a table that breaks down some rhetorical strategies, what they mean, and how to analyze them critically. This table can be used when rhetorically analyzing a text or artifact or when you begin the process of writing about your findings. The purpose of this table is to provide a breakdown of rhetorical strategies and how one can identify them in a message.
|STRATEGY||DEFINITION||QUESTIONS FOR CRITICAL THINKING|
|EXEMPLIFICATION||Provide examples or cases in point||Are there examples -- facts, statistics, cases in point, personal experiences, interview quotations -- added to the essay?|
|DESCRIPTION||Detail sensory perceptions of a person, place, or thing||Does a person, place, or object play a prominent role in the essay?|
|NARRATION||Recount an event||Are there any anecdotes, experiences, or stories in the essay? Process analysis: Explain how to do something or how something happens. Does any portion of the essay include concrete directions about a certain process?|
|COMPARISON AND CONTRAST||Discuss similarities and differences||Does the essay contain two or more related subjects? Does it evaluate or analyze two or more people, places, processes, events, or things? Are there any similarities and/or differences between two or more elements?|
|DIVISION AND CLASSIFICATION||Divide a whole into parts or sort related items into categories||Does the essay reduce the subject to more manageable parts or group parts?|
|DEFINITION||Provide the meaning of terms you use||Is there any important word in the essay with many meanings and is defined or clarified?|
|CAUSE AND EFFECT ANALYSIS||Analyze why something happens and describe the consequences of a string of events||Does the essay examine past events or their outcome? Does it explain why something happened?|
|REPETITION||The constant use of certain words||Why, with all words at her disposal, does the writer choose to repeat particular words?|
|COUNTERPOINTS||Contrasting ideas such as black/white, darkness/light, good/bad||Does the writer acknowledge and respond to counterpoints to her position?|
|IMAGERY||Language that evokes one or all of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, smell||Does the essay use any provocative language that calls upon readers’ senses?|
|METAPHOR AND SIMILE||A figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by “like” or “as”||Does the essay make connections between things to make a point or elicit an idea?|
|STYLE, TONE, AND VOICE||The attitude a writer takes towards a subject or character: serious, humorous, sarcastic, ironic, satirical, tongue-in-cheek, solemn, objective||What tone does the essay have? How does the writer portray herself? What choices does she make that influence her position?|
|ANALOGY||The comparison of two pairs that have the same relationship||Are there any comparisons made by the writer to strengthen her message?|
|FLASHBACK||A memory of an event in the past|
|HYPERBOLE||Exaggeration or overstatement||Does the writer make any claims that seem extreme?|
|PERSONIFICATION||Giving human qualities to animals or objects||Is something without conscience thinking or talking?|
|IRONY||An expression or utterance marked by deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning, often humorous||Does the writer really support her own assertions? Does she seem to be claiming the opposite you expect her to claim?|
|OXYMORON||A contradiction in terms such as “faithless devotion,” “searing cold,” “deafening silence,” “virtual reality,” “act naturally,” “peacekeeper missile,” or “larger half”||Do any of the writer’s terms seem to obviously clash?|
|PARADOX||Reveals a kind of truth which at first seems contradictory; Red wine is both good and bad for us||Do any contradictions used in the essay contain some grain of truth?|
|SYMBOLISM||Using an object or action that means something more than its literal meaning; A skull and crossbones symbolize death.||Does the writer seem to assert that a thing has meaning outside of the obvious?|
|PARODY||An exaggerated imitation of a style, person, or genre for humorous effect.||Do any contradictions used in the essay contain some grain of truth?|
|SARCASM||Using an object or action that means something more than its literal meaning; A skull and crossbones symbolize death||Does the writer seem to assert that a thing has meaning outside of the obvious?|
|SATIRE||Literary tone used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness, often with the intent of correcting, or changing, the subject of the satiric attack||Does the writer’s humor aim to fix its target?|
|DICTION||An author's choice of words||Why, with all words at her disposal, does the writer choose to use those particular words?|
|PARALLELISM||The use of identical or equivalent constructions in corresponding clauses||Are there any syntactic similarities between two parts of a sentence?|
The persuasive appeals, or what could also be known as the rhetorical triangle, were developed by Aristotle to ensure effective communication, and are a cornerstone within the field of Rhetoric and Writing. It is common to see the three persuasive appeals depicted as the points of a triangle because like the points of triangle they each play a role in the ability to hold the message together. Aristotle was a Greek philosopher that believed all three of these rhetorical appeals were needed to effectively communicate an intended message to a pre-determined audience. Aristotle's three rhetorical appeals are: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos; they are discussed in detail throughout the remainder of this section.
Logos is most easily defined as the logical appeal of an argument. It relies on logic or reason and depends on deductive and/or inductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning begins with a generalization and then applies it to a specific case. The generalization you start with must be based on a sufficient amount of reliable evidence. Inductive reasoning takes a specific representative case, or facts, and then draws generalizations or conclusions from them. Inductive reasoning must be based on a sufficient amount of reliable evidence. In other words, the facts you draw on must fairly represent the larger situation or population. Both deductive and inductive reasoning are discussed more in depth further down on this page.
Example of Logos: Say that you are writing a paper on immigration and you say "55,000 illegal immigrants entered this country last year, of those, only 23,000 did it legally." There is obviously something wrong here. Although saying 55,000 immigrants were "illegal" makes for an impressive statistic, it is apparently not correct if you admit that 23,000 of these people immigrated legally. The actual number of illegal immigrants would then be only 32,000, a significantly lower number. The purpose of this example is to demonstrate how having logical progression to an argument is essential in effectively communicating your intended message.
Ethos is the appeal to ethics, the use of authority to persuade an audience to believe in their character. And while ethos is called an ethical appeal, be careful not to confuse it solely with ethics; it encompasses a large number of different things which can include what a person wears, says, the words they use, their tone, their credentials, their experience, their charge over the audience, verbal and nonverbal behavior, criminal records, etc. Ethos gives the author credibility. It is important to build credibility with your audience because without it, readers are less inclined to trust you or accept the argument presented to them. Using credible sources is one method of building credibility. A certain amount of ethos may be implied solely from the author's reputation, but a writer should not rely only on reputation to prop up his/her work. A sure way to damage your ethos is by attacking or insulting an opponent or opposing viewpoint. The most effective ethos should develop from what is said, whether it is in spoken or written form. The most persuasive rhetoricians are the ones that understand this concept.
Example of Ethos: To elaborate, the construction of authority is reflected in how the rhetorician presents herself, what diction she uses, how she phrases her ideas, what other authorities she refers to, how she composes herself under stress, her experience within the context of her message, her personal or academic background, and more. In academia, ethos can be constructed not only by diction, tone, phrasing, and the like, but by what the rhetorician knows. A works cited page reflects this. It says: this author has read these sources, and knows their contents. And if those sources are relevant, reputable, and well regarded, the author has just benefited from that association. At the same time, authors want to make sure they properly introduce their sources within their writing to establish the authority they are drawing from.
Pathos is the appeal to passion, the use of emotion to persuade readers’ or listeners’ opinions in a rhetorical argument. Pathetic appeals (the use of pathos) are characterized by evocative imagery, description, visuals, and the like to create within the reader or listener a sense of emotion: outrage, sorrow, excitement, etc. Pathos is often easily recognizable because audiences tend to know when what they hear or read swells emotion within their hearts and minds. Be careful to distinguish between pathos as a rhetorical vehicle to persuade using emotion and the logical fallacy “appeal to pity” (discussed more in depth further down the page). Both use emotion to make their point, but the fallacy diverts the audience from the issue to the self while the appeal emphasizes the impact of the issue.
Although argument emphasizes reason, there is usually a place for emotion as well. Emotional appeals can use sources such as interviews and individual stories to paint a moving picture of reality, or to illuminate the truth. For example, telling the story of a specific child who has been abused may make for a more persuasive argument than simply stating the number of children abused each year. The story provides the numbers with a human face. However, a writer must be careful not to employ emotional appeals which distract from the crux of the debate, argument, or point trying to be made.
Example of Pathos: A good example of pathos is in public services announcements. Some of the most popular include drug warnings: A woman is at the stove in the kitchen with a skillet. She holds up an egg and says, “This is your brain.” She cracks the egg into the skillet where it immediately begins to cook. “This is your brain on drugs.” Or the more recent billboards cautioning against (meth)amphetamines which show an attractive young person juxtaposed against a mug-shot of the same person at a later date but with pustules, open sores, missing teeth, unkempt hair, acne, running makeup, and any other assortment of detrimental and hideous signs of the drug’s ruinous capabilities. Audiences are not meant to pity these individuals; rather, the audience is meant to reel in horror at the destruction meth can cause to a person in a short amount of time. In this case, horror or shock is the emotional tool rhetoric wields to persuade. It should be noted that people with acne, unkempt hair, or other traits listed are not necessarily uncommon—in fact, these traits can be found in vast numbers of high school students; the traits are merely shown in conjunction with the normative “before” picture to elicit the desired emotion. Either of the pictures alone would not be rhetorically effective, it is only by placing them together that the audience is passionately moved.
DEDUCTIVE LOGICAL ARGUMENT
A deductive logical argument is one that works from the top to the bottom. It begins with what is known as a "major premise," adds a "minor premise," and attempts to reach a conclusion. A major premise is a statement that names something about a large group, a minor premise takes a single member, and the conclusion attempts to prove that because this single member is a part of the larger group, they must also have the trait named in the original statement. For example:
- MEN ARE TALL - a major premise as it works with a large group of people
- BOB IS A MAN - a minor premise as we hear about only one individual of that group
- BOB IS TALL - we attempt to make a conclusion based upon what we have already been told
Now, if it is true that men are tall, and that Bob is a man, then we can safely infer that Bob must be tall. However, beware the logical fallacy. Though it may be true that in certain cultures men are, on average, taller than women, certainly this is not always the case. Being that our major premise is not altogether true, we can now say that this argument is flawed. Furthermore, we might ask what our definition of "tall" is. Tall is different if we are talking about the average population, or basketball players. Also, what is a man? Do transgendered individuals count? We see that the problem becomes far more complex the more we look into it.
INDUCTIVE LOGICAL ARGUMENT
As some would argue that a deductive argument works from the top down, toward a conclusion, some comment that an inductive argument works from the bottom up. This is mildly misleading. What is meant by this is that an inductive logical argument begins with a firm affirmation of truth, a conclusive statement. By getting the audience to agree with this statement, the argument moves to the next "logical" step. It proceeds in this manner until the argument has led you from one seemingly reasonable conclusion to another that you may not have originally agreed with. Take the following as an example. Move through the argument slowly, making sure you understand and agree with each step in the process (and please forgive the religious content, you'll come to see it is irrelevant anyway).
The human soul is inherently free. This is its very nature. We are confined to our mortal, earthly bodies, but our souls must be kept free, or the nature of the soul is entirely negated. If one chooses to believe in a soul, they can only believe that it embraces this (vague idea of ) freedom.
At conception, a child is given a soul. Some may argue that it is not until birth, but if those very same persons are pro-life, they confuse their arguments. Thus, if someone is pro-life, and believes in a soul, they must believe in the freedom of that soul, and also accept that the soul is granted upon conception.
A soul cannot die. By the same means by which it is free over the body, a soul claims immortality while the body decomposes and is ruined. To deny that a soul is immortal is again to deny the very essence of a soul. Thus, if someone is pro-life, and believes in a soul, they must believe in the freedom of that soul, the immortality of the soul, and also accept that the soul is granted upon conception.
A soul cannot be born. It is immortal and cannot die, it is not earthly, it forever exists, and cannot be born. There are tales in Greek mythology of Athena’s birth, yet she bounds from her father’s head a fully decorated woman. She was not born. She existed previously, as Milton writes the Son in Paradise Lost. If one accepts the Bible’s teachings, there can be no reincarnation, another form of birth, a rebirth. Thus, if someone is pro-life, and believes in a soul, and does not accept reincarnation, they must believe in the freedom of that soul, the immortality of the soul that is always and forever (which cannot be born and cannot die), and also accept that the soul is granted upon conception.
A soul being always an essence, and not being able to be reincarnated, can only exist outside of the body, somewhere, until the act of conception occurs. That soul must then be placed in the body that was forever intended to receive it, as it belongs nowhere else. The soul is fated to that one body. Thus, if someone is pro-life, and believes in a soul, and does not accept reincarnation, namely a practicing Catholic, they must also believe in the freedom of the soul, and in the concept of fate. Fate, however, completely opposes the idea of freedom. One cannot then believe in a soul, for it immediately enforces a belief if fate which directly negates the belief in the soul. If our actions are written in a Divine plan, we are not free to make our own choices. Every action has been scripted.
Do not worry, it must be that you were meant to read this.
A sample inductive argument by Ben Doberstein.
Having seen this, some might say that the argument defeats Catholicism from an atheist standpoint. Others might find that it argues for the secularization of religion. Still, there are ways in which it supports Catholicism at the same time. Though the argument might seem as if it is disagreeing with the Catholic religion, and some would agree that it is, we must always be looking for the logical fallacy. Upon closer inspection, you may notice that all this argument truly does, in one reading of the text, is to explain the complexity of God through the mind of a human. Catholicism has argued since the beginning that God is impossible to fully explain using the conceptions of man. In that way, this argument only supports that conclusion. Be aware that there will be logic fallacies hidden in almost every argument. If there is more than one side to an argument, such as in religious or political debates, it is most likely because the argument is impossible to prove. Hence, there will be a logical fallacy present.
Logical fallacies, often referred to by their Latin name “non sequitur” (which translates to “it does not follow”), are powerful tools in logic and rhetoric. When an arguer is able to identify her opponent’s fallacious positions, she can point them out and expose a weakness. She undermines her opponent’s position. Arguers comfortable with fallacies have an easier time avoiding them, thus making their positions more tenable. Missteps in logic can be confusing for students: sometimes a fallacy will be called by its Latin name, other times they will be referred to by a synonym; some are clumped together, and others are overly specific. For example: “Argument against the person” is often called an “Ad hominem” argument; a “Complex question” can be referred to as a “Loaded question”; “Appeal to the people” occasionally loses its distinction between direct and indirect (referred to only as “Bandwagon fallacy”); and “Begging the question” many times implies only its aspect of circular reasoning and not the other aspects. However, more important than agreeing on a name is the recognition of these non sequiturs. While a logician might dedicate her life to this topic, as a student you are expected only to avoid fallacies in your own writing and identify them in others’.
The following is a fairly comprehensive table of fallacies, and its purpose if for you to use a reference to ensure that you do not create a logical fallacy as your are writing about your discoveries throughout your rhetorical analysis. Having said that, this table can be used for more than just the completion of a rhetorical analysis; rather this table could be used as a reference for any argument or persuasion you are attempting to effectively communicate to an intended audience.
|APPEAL TO FORCE||Arguer threatens reader/listener||If you don't agree with me, I will beat you up.|
|APPEAL TO PITY||Arguer elicits pity from reader/listener||If you don't pass me in this course, I will get kicked out of school and have to flip burgers the rest of my life.|
|DIRECT APPEAL TO THE PEOPLE||Arguer arouses mob mentality||The terrorists came from the middle east. Our only course of action is to turn it into a parking lot.|
|INDIRECT APPEAL TO THE PEOPLE||Arguer appeals to the reader/listener's desire for security, love, respect, etc.||Of course you want to read my book, it's what all the intellectuals read.|
|ABUSIVE ARGUMENT AGAINST THE PERSON (AD HOMINEM)||Arguer verbally abuses the other arguer||You're a moron; therefore your point is invalid.|
|CIRCUMSTANTIAL ARGUMENT AGAINST THE PERSON (AD HOMINEM)||Arguer presents the other arguer as predisposed to argue in this way||Of course you'd say I need braces; you're a dentist. (Anyone may be able to note I need braces.)|
|CONSISTENCY ARGUMENT AGAINST THE PERSON (TU QUOQUE)||Arguer presents other arguer as a hypocrite||How can you tell me not to drink and drive when you did it last weekend? (Note: don't drink and drive.)|
|ACCIDENT||General rule is applied to a specific case it was not intended to cover||Americans are entitled to freedom of speech, so you cannot arrest him for yelling "fire" in the theater. (Note: don't yell "fire" in the theater.)|
|STRAW MAN||Arguer distorts opponent's argument and then attacks the distorted argument||Our campus is "dry" and doesn't allow alcohol. Obviously the administration is composed of a bunch of puritans who don't speak for the majority and can be ignored.|
|MISSING THE POINT||Arguer draws conclusion different from that supported by the premises||College education costs are rising exponentially; therefore we should reduce the number of years needed to obtain a degree.|
|RED HERRING||Arguer leads reader/listener off track||People continually talk about the negative effects of tobacco, but did you know that the Native Americans used to smoke tobacco? Many Native American folk remedies are still used today in holistic medicine.|
|APPEAL TO UNQUALIFIED AUTHORITY||Arguer cites untrustworthy authority||My sixteen year old cousin Billy said that there was no moon landing, and he wants to be an astronaut, so it must be true.|
|APPEAL TO IGNORANCE||Premises report that nothing is known or proved, and then a conclusion is drawn||There is no way of disproving the existence of God, therefore he exists. Or, conversely: There is no way of proving the existence of God, therefore he doesn't exist.|
|HASTY GENERALIZATION||Conclusion is drawn from atypical sample||Mrs. Dobson's Rottweiler bit a neighbor boy; therefore all Rottweilers are violent dogs.|
|FALSE CAUSE||Conclusion depends on nonexistent or minor causal connection||Every time I change the channel, my sports team scores. Therefore, any time I want my team to score, I need only change the channel|
|SLIPPERY SLOPE||Conclusion depends on unlikely chain reaction||If Americans' rights to bear arms is taken away, foreigners will view the country as weak and disarmed and attack, easily crushing our crippled defenses and enslaving our nation to submit to their will and whim.|
|WEAK ANALOGY||Conclusion depends on defective analogy||My cousin Billy is just like Yao Ming, he is tall and loves basketball; therefore he will be a pro ball player just like Yao Ming.|
|BEGGING THE QUESTION||Arguer creates the illusion that inadequate premises are adequate by leaving out key premises, by restating the conclusion as a premise, or by reasoning in a circle||Of course animals have rights, just look at how they're being treated.|
|COMPLEX QUESTION||Multiple questions are concealed in a single question||Have you stopped sleeping with your secretary?|
|FALSE DICHOTOMY||"Either/or" statement that hides additional alternatives||Either you buy Axe body spray or you risk not attracting the ladies. Obviously you want to attract the ladies, so you will buy Axe body spray.|
|SUPPRESSED EVIDENCE||Arguer ignores important evidence that requires a different conclusion||Of course that child can't practice medicine, he is only a boy. (If said child is Doogie Howser.)|
|EQUIVOCATION||Conclusion depends on a shift in meaning of a word of phrase||A squirrel is a mammal; therefore a large squirrel is a large mammal.|
|AMPHIBOLY||Conclusion depends on the wrong interpretation of a syntactically ambiguous statement||John rode his bike past the tree with a helmet. (The tree has a helmet?)|
|COMPOSITION||Attribute is wrongly transferred from parts to whole||Bleach and ammonia individually are strong chemical cleaners; therefore if I mix them I will have a stronger chemical cleaner. (This produces various lethal gases, which would be foolish to do)|
|DIVISION||Attribute is wrongly transferred from whole to parts||Our campus is over one hundred years old; therefore every building on campus is over one hundred years old.|
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THE CHARACTERISTICS, AND IMPORTANCE, OF A NATURAL RHETORIC.
AN INAUGURAL DISCOURSE DELIVERED IN AUBURN THEOLOGICAL
SEMINARY, JUNE 16, 1852.
There is no greater or more striking contrast, than exists between a thing that is alive, and a thing that is dead; between a product of nature, and a product of mechanism; between a thing which has a principle within it, and a " thing of shreds and patches." The human mind notices this contrast between the various objects that come before it, the quicker and the more sharply, because it is itself a living thing, and because its own operations are unifying, organizing, and vivifying, in their nature. We sometimes speak of the mechanism of the human understanding, and of a mechanizing process as going on within it. But this language is metaphorical, and employed to denote the uniformity and certainty of intellectual processes, rather than their real nature. Man is a living soul, and there is no action anywhere, or in anything, that is more truly and purely vital, more entirely diverse from and hostile to the mechanical and the dead, than the genuine action of the human mind. Hence it is, that the mind notices this contrary quality and characteristic in an object with the (88)
rapidity of instinct, and starts back from it with a sort of organic recoil. Life detects death, and shrinks from death, instantaneously. Nature abhors art and artifice, as decidedly as, according to the old philosophy, it abhors a vacuum.
This distinction between the natural and the artificial, furnishes a clue to the difference which runs through all the productions of man, and reveals the secret of their excellence or their defects. How often and how spontaneously do we sum up our whole admiration of a work by saying, " it is natural," and our whole dislike by the words, "it is artificial?" The naturalness and life-likeness in the one case, are the spring of all that has pleased us; the formality and artifice in the other, are the source of all that has repelled or disgusted us. Even when we go no further in our criticism, this general .statement of conformity or oppugnancy to nature, seems to be a sufficient criticism. And with good reason. For, if a production has nature, has life in it, it has real and permanent excellence. It has the germ and root of all excellences. And if it has not nature or life in it; if it is a mechanical, or an artificial, or a formal thing; it has the elements of all defects and all faults in it.
It will be noticed here, that we have used the term Art in its more common and bad sense, of contrariety to Nature, and not in that technical and best signification of the word, which implies the oneness and unison of the two. For, true Art, Fine Art, has Nature in it, and the genuine artist, be he painter, or poet, or orator, is one who paints, or sings, or speaks, with a natural freedom and freshness. Hence it is, that we are impressed by the great productions of Fine Art, in the same way that we are by the works of Nature. A painting, warm from the easel of Claude Lorraine, appeals to what is alive in us, in the same genial way that a vernal landscape does. — An oration from a clear brain, a beating heart, and a glowing lip, produces effects analogous to those of light, and fire, and the electric currents. In this way, a mysterious union is found to exist between outward nature, and that inward nature in the soul of man which we call genius; and in this way we see that there is no essential difference between Nature and Art.*
But in the other and more common sense of the term Art; and the sense in which we shall employ it at this time; there is no such mystic union and unison between it and Nature. It is its very contrary; so much so, that the one kills and expels the other; so much so, that, as we have said, the one affords a universal test of the faultiness, and the other of the excellence, of the productions of the human mind, in all departments of effort. For the Natural is the true, while the Artificial is the false. Truth is the inmost essence of that principle by which a production of the human mind is so organized and vitalized, as to make a fresh and powerful impression.— Whenever in any department of effort, the human mind has reached verity, and is able to give a simple and sincere expression to it, we find the product full of nature, full of life, full of freshness, full of impression. This, and this ultimately, is the plain secret of the charm in every work of genius and of power. In every instance, the influence which sways the observer, or the hearer, or the reader, is the influence of the veritable reality, of the real and the simple truth. The Artificial, on the contrary, is the false. Examine any formal production whatever, and we shall be brought back in the end to a pretence, to a falsehood. The mind of the author is not filled with the truth, and yet he pretends to an utterance of the truth. Its working is not genial and spontaneous like that of nature, and yet he must give out that it is. From the beginning to the end of the process, therefore, an artificial production is essentially untrue, unreal, and hence unnatural.
* Nature's own work it seemed, (nature tanght art.)
Paradise Regained, ii. 295.
All nature is but art unknown to thee. Tope.
Nature is the art of God. Sir Thomas Browne.
There is a nature in all artificial things, and again, an artifice in all compounded natural things. Ccdwortii.
The art of seeing nature is in reality the great object of the studies of the artist. Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Art may, in truth, be called the human toorld. Allston.
For a philosophic statement of this theory soo KAnt's Urthcilskraft $J 45, 46, and Schilling's discourse upon the relation of Art to Nature.
We have thus briefly directed attention to this very common distinction between the Natural and the Artificial, and to the ground of it, for the purpose of introducing the general topic upon which we propose to speak on this occasion: which is,
The Cliaracteristics and importance of a Natural BJietoric, with special reference to the work of the Preacher.
There is no branch of knowledge so liable to an artificial method, as that of Rhetoric. Strictly defined, it is, indeed, as Milton calls it, an instrumental art, and hence, from its very nature, its appropriate subject-matter is the form of a discourse. While Philosophy, and History, and Theology, are properly occupied with the substance of human composition; with truth itself and thought itself; to Rhetoric is left the humbler task of putting this material into a form suited to it. Hence, it is evident, that by the very nature and definition of Rhetoric, this department of knowledge and of discipline is liable to formalism and artificiality. While the mind is carried by the solid, material, branches of education, further and further into the very substance of truth itself; while History, and Philosophy, and Theology, by their very structure and contents, tend to deepen and strengthen the mental processes; Rhetoric, in common with the whole department of Fine Art, seems to induce superficiality and formality. And when a bad tendency seems to receive aid from a legitimate department of human knowledge, it is no wonder that it should gain ground until it convert the whole department into its own nature. Hence, as matter of fact, there is no branch of knowledge, no part of a general system of education, so much infected, in all ages, with the merely formal, the merely hollow, the merely artificial, and the totally lifeless, as Rhetoric. The epigram which Ausonius wrote under the portrait of the Rhetorician Rufus, might, with too much truth, be applied to the Rhetorician generally: Ipse rhetor, est imago imaginis.* The need, therefore, of a Rhetoric that educates like nature, and not artificially; a Rhetoric that organizes and vitalizes the material that is made over to it for purposes of form; is apparent at first glance. Without such a method of expression, the influence of the solid branches of education themselves is neutralized. However full of fresh and original thought the mind may be, if it has been trained up to a mode of presenting it, that is in its own nature artificial and destructive of life, the freshness and originality will all disappear in the process of imparting it to another mind. A Rhetoric that is conformed to nature and to truth, is needed, therefore, in order that the department itself may be co-ordinate with those higher departments of knowledge in which the foundation of *
* Ausonii Epig. LI.
mental education is laid. "Without such a concurrence with the material branches of education, such a merely formal and instrumental branch as that of Rhetoric, is useless, and worse than useless. For it only diverts the mind from the thought to the expression, without any gain to the latter, and to the positive detriment of the former.
1. Rhetoric, therefore, can be a truly educating and influential department, only in proportion as it is organizing in its fundamental character. In order to this, it must be grounded first of all in logic, or the laws of thinking, and so become not a mere collection of rules for the structure and decoration of single sentences, but a habit and process of the human mind. The Rhetorician must make his first sacrifice to the austerer muses. In an emblematic series by one of the early Florentine engravers, Rhetoric is represented by a female figure of dignified and commanding deportment, with a helmet surmounted by a regal crown on her head, and a naked -sword in her right hand. And so it should be. Softness, and grace, and beauty, must be supported by strength and prowess; the golden and jewelled crown must be defended by the iron helmet, and the steel sword. A rhetorical mind, therefore, in the best and proper sense of the term, is at bottom a constructive mind; a mind capable of methodizing and organizing its acquisitions and reflections into forms of symmetry, and strength, and in a greater or less degree of beauty. It is a mind which, in the effort to express itself, begins from within and works outward, and whose product is, for this reason, characterized by the unity and thorough compactness of a product of Nature. Such, for example, was the mind of Demosthenes, and such a product is the Oration for the Crown. The oratorical power of this great master is *
primarily a constructive talent; an ability to methodize and combine. Take away this deeply-running and rigorous force by which the various parts of the discourse, the whole materiel of the plan and division, are compelled and compacted together, and this orator falls into the same class with the Gorgiases and the false Rhetoricians of all ages. Take away the organization of the Oration for the Crown, and a style and diction a hundred fold more brilliant and gorgeous than that which now clothes it, would not save it from the fate of the false Rhetoric of all ages.
Such again, for example, was the mind of the Apostle Paul, and such was the character of his Rhetoric. Those short epistles, which like godliness are profitable for all things, and ought to be as closely studied by the sermonizer as they are by the theologian, are as jointed and linked in their parts as the human frame itself, and as continuous in the flow of their trains of thought as the current of a river. The mind of this great first preacher to the Gentiles, this great first sermonizer to cultivated and sceptical Paganism, was also an organizing mind. How naturally does Christian doctrine, as it comes forth from this intellect whose native characteristics were not destroyed, but only heightened and purified, by inspiration — how naturally and inevitably does Christian truth take on forms that are fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth; statements that are at once logic and rhetoric, and satisfy both the reason and the feelings. For does not the profoundest theologian study the Epistle to the Romans to find ultimate and absolute statements in sacred science, and does not the most unlettered Christian read and pray over this same epistle, that his devotions may be kindled and his heart made better? Does not, to use the illustration of the Christian Father, does not the lamb find a fording place and the elephant a swimming place in this mighty unremitting stream?
This thoroughness in the elaboration of the principal ideas of a discourse, and this closeness in compacting them into the unity of a plan, is, therefore, a prime quality in eloquence, and it is that which connects Rhetoric with all the other departments of human knowledge, or rather makes it the organ by and through which these find a full and noble expression. For, contemplated from this point of view, what is the orator but a man of culture who is able to tell in round and full tones what he knows; and what is oratory but the art whereby the acquisitions and reflections of the general human mind are communicated to the present and the future. We cannot, therefore, taking this view of the nature of Rhetoric as essentially organizing in its character, separate it from the higher departments of History, or Philosophy, or Theology, but must regard it as co-ordinate and concurrent with them. The rhetorical process is to go on in education, along with these other processes of acquisition and information and reflection, so that the final result shall be a mind not only disciplined inwardly but manifested outwardly to other minds ; so that there shall be not only an intellect full of thought, and a heart beating with feeling, and an imagination glowing with imagery, but a living expression of them all, in forms of unity and simplicity and beauty and grandeur. In this way Rhetoric really becomes, what it was once claimed to be, the very crown and completion of all culture, and the rhetorical discipline, the last accomplishment in the process of education, when the man becomes prepared to take the stand on the orator's bema before his fellow men, and dares to attempt a transfer of his consciousness into them.
2. The second characteristic of a natural Rhetoric is the amplifying power. If Rhetoric should stop with the mere organizing of thought, it might be difficult to distinguish it from logic. But this constructive talent in the Rhetorician, is accompanied by another ability which is more purely oratorical. We mean the ability to dwell amply upon an idea until it has unfolded all its folds, and lays off richly in broad full view. We mean the ability to melt the hard solid ore with so thorough and glowing a heat, that it will run and spread like water. We mean the ability to enlarge and illustrate upon a condensed and cubic idea, until its contents spread out into a wide expanse for the career of the imagination and the play of the feelings.
This union of an organizing with an amplifying power, may be said to be the whole of Rhetoric. He who should combine both in perfect proportions, would be the ideal orator of Cicero. For while the former power presents truth in its clear and connected form for the understanding, the latter transmutes it into its imaginative and impassioned forms, and the product of these two powers, when they are blended in one living energy, is Eloquence. For Eloquence, according to the best definition that has yet been given, is the union of Philosophy and Poetry in order to a practical end.* When, therefore, the logical organization is clothed upon with the imaginative and impassioned amplification, there arises " a combination and a form indeed;" a mental product adapted more than all others to move and influence the human mind.
* Theremin's Rhetoric, Book i. Chapters iii., iv.
But we shall see still more clearly into the essential characteristics of a Natural Rhetoric, by passing, as we now do, after this brief analysis, to the second part of our discourse, which proposes to treat of the worth and importance of such a Rhetoric to the preacher.
1. And in the first place, a natural as distinguished from an artificial Rhetoric, is of the highest worth to the preacher because it is fruitful.
The preacher is one who, from the nature of his calling, is obliged to originate a certain amount of thought within a limited period of time, which is constantly and uniformly recurring. One day in every seven, as regularly as the motion of the globe brings it around, he is compelled to address his fellow men upon the very highest themes, in a manner and to an extent that will secure their attention and interest. No profession, consequently, makes such a steady and unintermittent draught upon the resources of the mind as the clerical, and no man so much needs the aid of a fertile and fruitful method of discoursing as the Christian preacher. Besides this great amount of thinking and composition that is required of him, he is moreover shut up to a comparatively small number of topics, and cannot derive that assistance from variety of subjects, and novelty in circumstances, which the secular orator avails himself of so readily. The truths of Christianity are few and simple, and though they are richer arid more inexhaustible than all others, they furnish little that is novel or striking. The power that is in them to interest and move men, must be educed from their simple and solid substance, and not from their great number or variety. The preacher may, it is true, be able to maintain a sort of interest in his hearers by the biographical, or geographical, or archaeological, or historical, or literary, accompaniments of the Scriptures, but his permanent influence and power over them as a preacher must come from his ability to develop clearly, profoundly, and freshly, a few simple and unadorned doctrines. Far be it from me to undervalue the importance of that training and study, by which we are introduced into that elder and oriental world in which the Bible had its origin, and with whose scenery, manners and customs, and modes of living and thinking, it will be connected to the end of time. No student of the Scriptures, and especially no sacred orator, can make himself too much at home in the gorgeous East; too familiar with that Hebrew spirit which colors like blood the whole Bible, New Testament as well as Old Testament. But at the same time he should remember that all this knowledge is only a means to an end; that he cannot as a preacher of the Word, rely upon this as the last source whence he is to derive subject matter for his thinking and discourse year after year, but must by it all be carried down to deeper and more perennial fountains, to the few infinite facts and the few infinite truths of Christianity.
The need, therefore, of a Rhetorical method that is in its own nature fertile and fruitful, is plain. And what other ability can succeed but that organizing and amplifying power, which we have seen to be the substance of the Rhetoric of Nature as the contrary of Art. Through the former of these, the preacher's mind is led into the inmost structure and fabric of the individual doctrine, and so of the whole Christian system; and through the latter he is enabled to unroll and display the endless richness of the contents. It is safe to say, that a mind which has once acquired this natural method of developing and presenting Christian truth, cannot be exhausted. No matter how much drain may be made upon it, no matter how often it may be called upon to preach the "things new and old," it cannot be made dry. The more it is drawn from, the more salient and bulging is the fulness with which it wells up and pours over. For this organic method is the key and the clue. He who is master of it, he with whom it has become a mental habit and process, will find the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in the Scriptures opening readily and richly to him. He will find his mind habitually in the vein. .
2. And this brings us to a second characteristic of a Natural Rhetoric, whereby it is of the greatest worth to the preacher, viz., that it is a genial and invigorating method. All the discipline of the human mind ought to minister to its enjoyment and its strength. That is a false method of discipline, by which the human mind is made to work by an ungenial effort, much more by spasms and convulsively. It was made to work like nature itself, calmly, continuously, strongly, and happily. "When, therefore, we find a system of training, resulting in a labored, anxious, intermittent, and irksome, activity, we may be sure that something is wrong in it. The fruits of all modes of discipline that conform to the nature of the human mind and the nature of truth, are freedom, boldness, continuity, and pleasure, of execution. In this connection weakness and tedium are faults; sickness is sin.
But the mental method for which we are pleading, while making the most severe and constant draft upon the mental faculties, at the same time braces them and inspires them with power. The mind of the orator, in this slow organization and continuous amplification of the materials with which it is laboring, is itself affected by a reflex action. That truth, that divine truth, which the preacher is endeavoring to throw out, that it may renovate and edify the soul of a fellow being, at the same time strikes in, and invigorates his own mind, and swells his own heart with joy.
This feature, this genial vigor, in what we have styled a Natural Rhetoric, acquires additional importance when we recur to the fact that has already been mentioned, viz., that inasmuch as Rhetoric is a formal or instrumental department, its influence is liable to become, and too often has become, debilitating to the human mind. When this branch of discipline becomes artificial and mechanical in its character, by being severed too much from those profounder, and more solid, departments of human knowledge from whose root and fatness it must derive all its nourishment and circulating juices; when Rhetoric degenerates into a mere collection of rules for the structure of sentences and the finish of diction; no studies or training will do more to diminish the resources of the mind, and to benumb and kill the vitality of the soul, than the Rhetorical. The eye is kept upon the form merely, and no mind, individual or national, was ever made strong or fertile by the contemplation of mere form. The mind under such a tutorage works by rote, instead of from an inward influence and an organic law. In reality, its action is a surface-action, which only irritates and tires out its powers. Perhaps the strongest objections that have been advanced against a Rhetorical course of instruction, find their support and force here. Men complain of the dryness, and the want of geniality,of a professed Rhetorician. The common mind is not satisfied with his studious artifice, and his measured movements, but craves something more; it craves a robust and hearty utterance, a hale and lifesome method. Notice that it is not positively displeased with this precision and finish of the Rhetorician, but only with the
lack of a genial impulse under it. It is its sins of omission that have brought Rhetoric into disrepute.
But when the training, under consideration, results in a genial and invigorating process, by which the profoundest thinking and the best feeling of the soul are discharged to the utmost, and yet the mind feels the more buoyant for it, and the stronger for it, all such objections vanish. There is, we are confident; there is a method of disciplining the mind in the direction of Rhetoric, and for the purposes of form and style, that does not in the least diminish the vigor and the healthiness of its natural processes. If there is not, then the department should be annihilated. If there can be no Rhetorcal training in the schools, but such as is destructive of the freshness, and originality, and geniality, of native impulses and native utterances, then it were far better to leave the mind to its unpruned and tangled luxuriance; to let it wander at its own sweet will, and bear with its tedious windings and its endless eddies. Here and there, at least, there would be an onward movement, and the inspiration of a forward motion. But it is not so. For, says Shakspeare: —
There is an Art which * * * shares
With great creating Nature.
There is a close and elaborate discipline which is in harmony with the poetry, and the feeling, and the eloquence, of the human soul, and which, therefore, may be employed to evoke and express it. There is a Rhetoric which, when it has been wrought into the mind, and has become a spontaneous method and an instinctive habit with it, does not in the least impair the elasticity and vigor of nature, because in the phrase of the same great poet- and master of form from whom we have just quoted, "It is an Art that Nature makes, or rather an Art which itself is Nature." Such a Rhetoric may, indeed, be denned to be an Art, or discipline, which enables man to be natural; an Art that simply develops the genuine and hearty qualities of the man himself, of the mind itself. — For the purpose of all discipline in this direction, is not to impose upon the mind a style of thought and expression unnatural and alien to it, but simply to aid the mind to be itself, and to show itself out in the most genuine and sincere manner. The Rhetorical Art is to join on upon the nature and constitution of the individual man, -so that what is given by creation, and what is acquired by culture, shall be homogeneous, mutually aiding and aided, reciprocally influencing and influenced. And let not this mental veracity, this truthfulness to a man's individuality and mental structure, be thought to be an easy acquisition. It is really the last and highest accomplishment. It is a very difficult thing for a discourser to be himself, genuinely and without affectation. It is a still more difficult thing for an orator, a man who has come out before a listening and criticising auditory, to be himself; genuinely, fearlessly and without mannerism, communicating himself to his auditors precisely as he really is. A simple and natural style, says Pascal, always strikes us with a sort of surprise; for while we are on the lookout for an author, we find a man, while we are expecting a formal art, we find a throbbing heart. This is really the highest grade of culture, and the point toward which it should always aim, viz: to bring Nature out by means of art; and Rhetorical discipline, instead of leaving the pupil ten-fold more formal and artificial than it found him, ought to send him out among men, the most
artless, the most hearty, and the most genuine, man of them all.
Now of what untold worth is such a mental method and habit to the preacher of the Word! On this method, literally and without a metaphor, the more he works the stronger he becomes, the more he toils the happier he is. He finds the invention and composition of discourse a means of self-culture and of self-enjoyment. He finds that that labor to which he has devoted his life, and to which, perhaps, in the outset, he went with something of a hireling's feeling, is no irksome task, but the source of the noblest and most buoyant happiness. That steady unintermittent drain upon his thought and his feeling, which he feared would soon exsiccate his brain and leave his heart dry as powder, he finds is only an outlet for the ever accumulating waters!
This invigorating and genial influence of the Rhetorical method now under consideration, furthermore, is of special worth in the present state of the world. There never was a time when- the general mind was so impatient of dulness as now. He who addresses audiences at the present day must be vigorous and invigorating, or he is nothing. Hence the temptation, which is too often yielded to by the sacred orator, to leave the legitimate field of Christian discourse and to range in that border land which skirts it, or perhaps to pass into a region of thought that is really profane and secular. The preacher feels the need of saying something fresh, vigorous, and genial, and not being able to discourse in this style upon the old and standing themes of the Bible, he endeavors to christianize those secular and temporal themes with which the general mind is already too intensely occupied, that he may find in them subjects for entertaining, and, as he thinks, original discourse. But this course, on the part of the Christian minister, must always end in the decline of spiritual religion, both in his own heart and in that of the Church. Nothing, in the long run, is truly edifying to the Christian man or the Christian Church, that is not really religious. Nothing can renovate and sanctify the earthly mind, but that which is in its own nature spiritual and supernatural. Not that which resembles Christian truth, or which may be modified or affected by Christian truth, can convict of sin and convert to God, but only the substantial and real Christian truth itself. Nothing but material fire can be relied upon as a central sun, as a radiating centre.
The Christian preacher is thus shut up to the old and uniform system of Christianity in an age when, more than in any other, men are seeking for some new thing; when they are seeking and demanding stimulation, invigoration, animation, and impression. His only true course, therefore, is to find the new in the old; to become so penetrated with the spirit of Christianity, that he shall breathe it out from his own mind and heart, upon his congregation, in as fresh and fiery a tongue of flame as that which rested upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost; to enter so thoroughly into the genius and spirit of the Christian system, that it shall exhibit itself, through him, with an originality and newness kindred to that of its first inspired preachers, and precisely like that which characterizes the sermonizing of the Augustines and the Bernards, the Luthers and the Calvins, the Leightons, the Howes, and the Edwardses, of the Church. What renders the sermons of these men so vivific and so invigorating to those who study them, and to the audiences who heard them? Not the variety or striking character of the topics, but the thoroughness with which the truth was conceived and elaborated in their minds. Not an artificial Rhetoric, polishing and garnishing the outside of a subject in which the mind has no interest, and into the interior of which it has not penetrated; but an organizing Rhetoric, whereby the sermon shot up out of the great Christian system, like a bud out of the side of a great trunk or a great limb, part and particle of the great whole; an amplifying Rhetoric whereby the sermon was the mere evolution of an involution, the swelling, bursting, leafing out, blossoming, and fructuation, of this bud.
3. And this brings us, in the third place, to the worth of this Rhetorical method to the preacher, because it is closely connected with his theological training and discipline.
It is plain, from what has been said, that eloquent preaching cannot originate without profound theological knowledge. The eloquent preacher is simply the thorough theologian who has now gone out of his study, and up into the pulpit. In other words, eloquence in this as well as in every other instance is founded in knowledge. Cicero says that Socrates was wont to say that all men are eloquent enough on subjects whereon they have knowledge; * a saying which re-appears in the common and homely rule for eloquence, " Have something to say, and then say it."
Hence a Rhetorical training which does not sustain intimate relations to the general culture and discipline of the pupil, is worthless. At no point does an artificial Rhetoric betray itself so quickly and so certainly as here. We feel that it has no intercommunication with the character and acquisitions of the individual. It is a foreign method, which he has adopted by a volition, and
* De Oratore, i. 14.
not a spontaneous one which has sprung up out of his character and culture, and is in perfect sympathy with it. But the Rhetoric of nature has all the theological training of the preacher back of it as its support, beneath it as its soil and nutriment. All that he has become by long years of study and reflection, goes to maintain him as a Rhetorician, so that his oratory is really the full and powerful display of what he is and has become by vigorous professional study. The Rhetoric is the man himself.
In this way, a showy and tawdry manner is inevitably avoided, as it always should be, by the preacher. It cannot be said of him, as it can be of too many, " He is a mere Rhetorician." For this professional study, this lofty and calm theological discipline, this solemn care of human souls, this sacred professional character, will all show themselves in his general style and manner, and preclude every thing ostentatious or gaudy, much more every thing scenic or theatrical. The form will correspond to the matter. The matter being the most solemn and most weighty truth of God, the form will be the most chastened, the most symmetrical, and the most commanding, manner of man.
And in this way, again, the rhetorical training of the preacher will exert a reflex influence upon his theological training. A true sacred Rhetoric is a sort of practical theology, and is so styled in some nomenclatures. It is a practical expansion and exhibition of a scientific system for the purpose of influencing the popular mind. When, therefore, it is well conceived and well handled, it exerts a reflex influence upon theological science itself, that is beneficial in the highest degree. It cannot, it is true, change the nature and substance of the truth, but it can bring it out into distinct consciousness. The effort to popularize scientific knowledge, the endeavor to put logic into the form of rhetoric, imparts a clearness to conceptions, and a determination to opinions, that cannot be attained in the closet of the mere speculatist. Not until a man has endeavored to transfer his conceptions; not until he has pushed his way through the confusion and misunderstandings of another man's mind, and has tried to lodge his views in it; does he know the full significance and scope of even his own knowledge.
But especially is this action and re-action between theology and sacred Rhetoric of the highest worth to the preacher, because it results in a due mingling of the theoretic and the practical in his preaching. The desideratum in a sermon is such an exact proportion between doctrine and practice, such thorough fusion of these two elements, that the discourse at once instructs and impels; and he who supplies this desideratum in his sermonizing, is a powerful, influential, and eloquent, preacher. He may lack many other minor things, but he has the main thing; and in time these other minor things shall all be added unto him. In employing a Rhetoric that is at once organizing and amplifying in its nature and influence, the theological discipline and culture of the preacher are kept constantly growing and vigorous. Every sermon that is composed on this method, sets the whole body of his acquisitions into motion, and, like a bucket continually plunged down into a well and continually drawn up full and dripping, aerates a mass that would otherwise grow stagnant and putrid.
4. Fourthly and finally, the worth of a natural, as distinguished from an artificial, Rhetoric, is seen in the fact that it is connected, most intimately, with the vital religion of the man and the preacher. For no Rhetoric can be organizing and vivifying, that is not itself organic and alive. Only that which has in itself a living principle, can communicate life. Only that which is itself vigorous, can invigorate. The inmost essential principle, therefore, of a Rhetoric that is to be employed in the service of religion, must be this very religion itself: deep, vital, piety in the soul of the sacred orator. Even the pagan Cato, and the pagan Quinctilian after him, made goodness, integrity and uprightness of character, the foundation of eloquence in a secular sphere, and for secular purposes. The orator, they said, is an upright man, first of all an upright man, who understands speaking. How much more true then is it, that Christian character is the font and origin of all Christian eloquence; that the sacred orator is a holy man, first of all a holy man, who understands speaking.
We shall not, surely, be suspected of wishing to undervalue or disparage a department to which we propose to consecrate our whole time and attention, and, therefore, we may with the more boldness say, that we have always cherished a proper respect for that theory which has been more in vogue in some other denominations than in our own, that the preacher is to speak as the spirit moves him. There is a great and solid truth at the bottom of it, and though the theory unquestionably does not need to be held up very particularly before an uneducated ministry, we think there is comparatively little danger in reminding the educated man, the man who has been trained by the rules and maxims of a formal and systematic discipline, that the spring of all his power, as a Christian preacher, is a living spring. It is well for the sacred orator, who has passed through a long collegiate and professional training, and has been taught sermonizing as an art, to be reminded that the living principle, which is to render all this culture of use for purposes of practical impression, is vital godliness; that he will be able to assimilate all this material of Christian eloquence, only in proportion as he is a devout and holy man. Without this interior religious life in his soul, all his resources of intellect, of memory, and of imagination, will be unimpressive and ineffectual; the mere iron shields and gold ornaments that crush the powerless Tarpeia.
For the first and indispensable thing in every instance is power. Given an inward and living power, and a basis for motion, action, and impression, is given. In every instance we come back to this ultimate point. There is a theory among philosophers, that this hard, material world, over which we stumble, and against which we strike, is at bottom two forces or powers, held in equilibrium; that when we get back to the reality of the hard and dull clod, upon which "the swain treads with clouted shoon," we find it to be just as immaterial, just as mobile, just as nimble, and just as much a living energy, as the soul of man itself. Whether this be truth or not within the sphere of matter, one thing is certain, that within the sphere of mind we are brought back to forces, to fresh and living energies, in every instance in which the human soul makes an eloquent impression, or receives one. Examine an oration, secular or sacred, that actually moved the minds of men, a speech that obtained votes, or a sermon that, as we say, saved souls, and you find the ultimate cause of this eloquence, so far as man is concerned, to be a vital power in the orator. The same amount of instruction might have been imparted, the same general style and diction might have been employed in both cases, but if that eloquent power in the man had been wanting, there would have been no actuation of the hearer, and consequently no eloquence.
It is, therefore a great and crowning excellence of the Rhetorical method which we have been describing, that its lowest and longest roots strike down into the Christian character itself. It does not propose or expect to render the preacher eloquent without personal religion. It tells him on the contrary, that although God is the creator and sovereign of the human soul, and can therefore render the truth preached by an unregenerate man and in the most unfeeling irreligious manner, effectual to salvation, yet that the preacher must expect to see men moved by his discourses, only in proportion as he is himself a spiritually-minded, solemn, and devout man. Here is the power, and here is its hiding place, so far as the finite agent is concerned. In that holy love of God and of the human soul, which Christianity enjoins and produces; in that religious affection of the soul which takes its origin in the soul's regeneration; the preacher is to find the source of all his eloquence and impression as an orator, just as much as of his usefulness and happiness as a man and a Christian. Back to this last centre of all, do we trace all that is genuine, and powerful, and influential, in Pulpit Eloquence.
But by this is not meant merely that the preacher must be a man of zealous and fervid emotions. There is a species of eloquence, which springs out of easily excited sensibilities, and which oftentimes produces a great sensation in audiences of peculiar characteristics, and in some particular moods. But this eloquence of the flesh and the blood, without the brain; this eloquence of the animal, without the intellectual, spirits; is very different from that deep-toned, that solemn, that commanding eloquence, which springs from the life of God in the soul of man. We feel the difference, all men feel the difference, between the impression made by an ardent but superficial emotion, and that made by a deep feeling; by the sustained, equable, and strong, pulsation of religious affections, as distinguished from religious sensibilities. When a man of the latter stamp feels, we know that he feels upon good grounds and in reality; that this stir and movement of the. affections is central and all-pervading in him; that the eternal truth has taken hold of his emotive nature, moving the whole of it, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind. It is this moral earnestness of a man who habitually feels that religion is the chief concern for mortals here below; it is this profound consciousness of the perfections of God and of the worth of the human soul; which is the inmost principle of sacred eloquence, the vis vivida vitce of the sacred orator.
I have thus, as briefly as possible, exhibited the principal features of what is conceived to be a true method in rhetorical instruction and discipline; not because they are new, or different from the views of the best Rhetoricians of all ages, but merely to indicate the general spirit in which I would hope, by the blessing of God, to conduct the department of instruction committed to my care by the guardians of this Seminary. The department of Sacred Rhetoric and Pastoral Theology is one that, from the nature of the case, is not called upon to impart very much positive information. Its function is rather to induce an intellectual method, to form a mental habit, to communicate a general spirit to the future clergyman. It is, therefore, a department of growing importance in this country, and in the present state of society and the Church. Perhaps the general tone and temper of the clerical profession was never a matter
112 THE IMPORTANCE OF A NATURAL RHETORIC.
of more importance than now. The world, and this country especially, is guided more and more by the general tendencies of particular classes and professions. In politics, a party or class, that really has a tendency, and maintains it persistently for a length of time, is sure in the end to draw large masses after it. In reforms, a class that is pervaded by a distinctive spirit, which it sedulously preserves and maintains, is sure of a wide influence, finally. In literature, or philosophy, or theology, a school that has a marked and determined character of its own, and keeps faith with it, will in the course of time be rewarded for its self-consistency by an increase in numbers and in power. In all these cases, and in all other cases, the steady, continuous stream of a general tendency sucks into its own volume all the float and drift, and carries it along with it. And the eye of the reflecting observer, a? it ranges over the ocean of American society, can see these currents and tendencies, as plainly as the eye of the mariner sees the Gulf-stream.
How important, then, is any position which makes the occupant to contribute to the formation of a general spirit and temper, in so influential a class of men as the clerical! Well may such an one say, Who is sufficient for this thing? For myself, I should shrink altogether from this toil, and this responsibility, did I not dare to hope that the providence of that Being, who is the sovereign controller of all tendencies and all movements in the universe, has led me hither. In his strength would I labor, and to Him would I reverently commend myself and this institution.