Placere.—To use those varied arts and graces by which the instruction is rendered palatable and agreeable.
Movere.—To move their wills to action.
The last function is by far the most important.
The preacher’s triumph lies not in the conviction of the intellect, nor in the approbation of the tastes, but in the arousing of the wills of his hearers. The will is the goal-point at which he aims from the beginning.
A doctor may persuade his patient that bitter medicine and active exercise are necessary, but so long as the sick man lies on the sofa and nods assent this barren conviction is of little profit. When, however, the persuasion forces him to take a six-mile walk and swallow the revolting draught, then, and only then, is triumph secured. So a preacher may convince the habitual sinner of the heinousness of sin; he may win his applause by the cogency of his reasoning and the brilliancy of his style; but not till he has moved his will to fling the old fetters to the winds, not till he brings him a tearful penitent to the confessional, is his work complete.
We shall now take the three words of Cicero in order.
[Side note: Docere]
How shall we accomplish all implied in that word “docere?” How embed conviction in the minds of our hearers? Fill your own head to repletion with the subject; be ambitious to leave, if possible, no book unread, books of even collateral bearing. The more thought stored up the more complete will be your mastery over the subject and the more abundant the materials from which to select. I was struck by a letter from Father Faber to a friend:—“I intend writing a book on the Passion. I have already read a hundred works on the subject; see if you can get me any more.” A hundred volumes, yet he looks for more! Hence his brain was saturated with his subject, and when he tapped it, how copiously it flowed! What books should I read?
[Side note: What books to read]
The solid matter in Theology and the Sacred Scriptures and their developments. A book of sermons is the last to open. Why? You wish to raise a structure, then go to the original quarry where you have material in abundance. The arguments that bear the shaping of your own chisel, though not as polished as those you would borrow, will fit more naturally and adorn with greater grace. There are two great risks in reading sermon books—a tendency to imitate the style and a temptation to filch the jewels. The style may be very sublime, but the question is will it suit you. Your neighbour’s clothes may fit him admirably, but on you they would hang lop-sided.