Foes beset him on every side. He turns to the public library. The infidel review is crisp in style, its arguments catchy, and the brilliancy of its diction captivates. The pages of the fashionable novel are strewn with the rose leaves of literature: the plot enthrals. The arguments of the free-thought lecturer are well reasoned, the sophistries artistically concealed, whilst his mastery over the graces of elocution holds his audience spell-bound.
The young man staggers. He now turns to where he should expect to find strength. Under the pulpit next Sunday is a mind where the mists of doubt are gathering and darkening. He looks up to the “Light of the World” to have these mists dispelled. Instead of seeing his foes battered with their own weapons he sees these weapons, that in every domain are conquering for the devil, here despised.
He is forced to listen, perhaps, to an exhibition of tedious crudity. He goes away disheartened; perhaps to fall.
Now, the solid theological knowledge in that preacher’s head is more than sufficient to shatter the arguments of infidelity; the analytic power acquired during his college course would enable him to tear every sophistry to shreds; but the art of making both of these effective for the pulpit, the mastery of clear and nervous English, the elocution that sends every argument like a quivering arrow of light to its mark, these he neglected, or perhaps contemned.
This is our weak spot; here our position wants strengthening.
Sit by the fireside with that preacher and suggest the advisability of cultivating English and elocution. He replies: “I have two thousand souls to look after, sodalities to work up, schools to organise, and attend, perhaps, four sick calls in one night.” No, not now, but long years before, he should have been trained. It is not on the battlefield, when the bugle is sounding the “charge,” that the soldier should begin to learn the use of his weapons. In the college, and not on the field of action, is the place to acquire this science.
[Side note: A ruinous advice]
One of the most fatal directions ever tendered to Irish students is—devote all your college years to Classics, Philosophy, and Theology exclusively—these are your professional studies—and when you become a curate it will be time to master English and Elocution.
Analyse this and see what it means. Do not learn English or its expression till you are flung into a village without a soul to stimulate or encourage you; or, worse still, till you find yourself in the fierce whirl of an English or American city. “Wait till you are in the pulpit and then begin to learn to preach” is very like advising a man to wait till he is drowning and then it will be time enough to learn how to swim. Would any sane man give such an advice to an aspirant of the fine arts? What would be thought of the man who would say—“If you wish to become a good