It is to be feared that many sermons are written with too much regard for “literary deportment on paper,” and too little thought of their value as pulsating messages to men.
The preacher should train himself to take tight hold of his thought, to grip it with mental firmness and fervor, that he may afterward convey it to others with definiteness and vigor. Thoughts vaguely conceived and held tremblingly in the mind will manifest a like character when uttered. Into the writing of the sermon put vitality and intensity, and these qualities will find their natural place in delivery. Thrill of the pen should precede thrill of the voice. The habit of Dickens of acting out the characters he was depicting on paper could be copied to advantage by the preacher, and frequently during the writing of his sermon he might stand and utter his thoughts aloud to test their power and effectiveness upon an imaginary congregation.
There should be the most thorough cultivation of the inner sources of the preacher, whereby the spiritual and emotional forces are so aroused and brought under control as to respond promptly and accurately to all the speaker’s requirements. There should be assiduous training of the speaking voice as the instrument of expression and the natural outlet for thought and feeling. In the combined cultivation of these two essentials of expression—spirit and voice—the minister will find the true secret of effective pulpit preaching.
The throat as a vital part of the public speaker’s work in speaking is worthy of the greatest care and consideration. It is surprising that so little attention is given to vocal hygiene, when it is remembered that a serious weakness or affection of the throat may disqualify a speaker for important work. The delicate and intricate machinery of the vocal apparatus renders it peculiarly susceptible to misuse or exposure. The common defects of nasality, throatiness, and harshness, are due to wrong and careless use of the speaking-instrument.
In the training of the public speaker the first step is to bring the breathing apparatus under proper control. That is to say, the speaker must accustom himself, through careful practise, to use the abdominal method of breathing, and to keep his throat free from the strain to which it is commonly subjected. This form of breathing is not difficult to acquire, since it simply means that during inhalation the abdomen is expanded, and during exhalation it is contracted. It should be no longer necessary to warn the speaker to breathe exclusively through the nose when not actually using the voice. While speaking he must so completely control the breath that not a particle of it can escape without giving up its equivalent in sound.