The Excellent Preacher
A young Preacher, who had a very handsome mien, a melodious voice, a graceful action, and all the other agreeable charms which please in declamation, having mounted the pulpit, suddenly lost his memory, and not a word of the sermon could he recollect. To quit the pulpit would have been dishonourable; to speak was more difficult, for he had nothing to say. What was to be done in this extremity? He resolved to remain collected, and to make the best use of his voice and action, without pronouncing any thing but unconnected words, imperfect sentences, and pathetic exclamations: such as fors, buts, ifs, yets, ohs! ahs! you’ll please to observe, &c. Never did a Preacher appear with more grace and animation. He expanded his lungs, he made pathetic exclamations, and waved his hand in a thousand graceful manners. The pulpit shook; and the vault of the church, which was vast, re-echoed to all the vociferations he sent forth. The audience preserved a profound silence: every one inclined his ear, and redoubled his attention to catch sentences which were never spoken. Those who sat near the pulpit, said—‘We are too near; we cannot hear a sentence!’ Those who sat remote, complained of the distance, which caused them to lose the most wonderful sermon they ever heard. In a word, our Preacher kept his auditors in this manner for three quarters of an hour, all of them complaining of their seats. When he withdrew, their acclamations followed him; and they resolved, the next time he preached, to chuse their places with more care, and not deprive themselves of the fruits of a sermon which they were sensible was never equalled.
This anecdote will shew, that a Preacher may succeed without reason or imagination; and, if we judge by some who enjoy a good reputation, it will tend to prove that a musical voice, balacing the hands, and uttering warm exclamations, are the chief requisites for a declaimer in the pulpit.