Now, when people give a preacher attentive interest, the least they are entitled to expect is that he should let them hear every word. But finding themselves invariably baffled by the last word becoming inaudible, it is small wonder if, tantalised and disgusted, they abandon all effort to follow him.
[Side note: The cure]
It is therefore of great importance that this defect, so fatal yet so common, should be provided against in time. But how?
Since it comes from exhaustion, consequent on the mismanagement of the voice, the remedy is obvious.
Let the student daily practise reading aloud in the open air, preferably sermons or speeches by the best authors.
Let him nervously guard against allowing his voice to show the slightest trace of fatigue in the final words of each sentence. This can be accomplished by inhaling fully, going slowly, and not only giving full value to the punctuation stops, but resting at the rhetorical and logical pauses.
[Side note: Advantages of the remedy]
By this excellent practice he strengthens his lungs and vocal organs, cultivates his ear, and acquires a control over his voice so perfect that he can husband his reserve fund of breath and strength to impart at will freshness to the final syllable.
This practice should be continued till it becomes a rooted habit, till it has grown to be his normal method of speaking.
When he goes into the pulpit I would give him an advice, the value of which time and experience can alone enable him to appreciate.
Direct your voice not to the end of the church, but to the side wall about three-quarters way down from the pulpit to the door. Fix your eye on some person there; to him address your sermon, but pitch your voice against the wall about two feet above his head.
By this plan you not only secure your voice against unnecessary fatigue, but you take the surest method of sending it into every ear, and the reverberations of your own voice will act electrically on you.
As ring after ring of your sentences comes back from the sounding spot against which you have discharged them you are filled with courageous confidence and an assurance that every word has found its mark.
A recent writer in the Quarterly Review discloses in one luminous sentence the qualities that go to make an orator, and every priest should struggle with all his might to be an orator in the best sense of the word.
He says: “Nor is any man a great orator who has not many of the gifts of a great actor—his command of gesture, his variety and grace of elocution, his mobility of features, his instant sympathy with the ethical tone of this or that situation, his power of evoking that sympathy in every member of his audience; and this is surely what Demosthenes meant by making acting not action the secret of all oratory.”