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common comprehension : such sort of writers or speakers may be rich in knowledge, but they are seldom fit to communicate it. He that would gain a happy talent for the instruction of others must know how to disentangle and divide, his thoughts, if too many of them are ready to crowd into one paragraph ; and let him rather speak three sentences distinctly and perspicuously, which the hearer receives at once with his ears and his soul, than crowd all the thoughts into one sentence, which the hearer has forgotten before he can understand it.
But this leads me to the next thing I proposed, which was to mention some methods, whereby such a. perspicuity of style may be obtained as is proper for instruction.
1. Accustom yourself to read those authors who think and write with great clearness and evidence, such as convey their ideas into your understanding as fast as your eye or tongue can run over their sentences ; this will imprint upon the mind an habit of imitation, we shall learn the style with which we are very conversant, and practise it with ease and success.
2. Get a distinct and comprehensive knowledge of the subject which you treat of; survey it on all sides, and make yourself perfect master of it: then you will have all the sentiments that relate to it in your view, and under your command, and your tongue will very easily clothe those ideas with words which your mind has first made so familiar and
easy to itself.
Scribendi recte sapere est et principium et fons,
HoR. de Arte Poet,
Good teaching from good knowledge springs,
3. Be well skilled in the language which you speak; ac. quaint yourself with all the idioms and special phrases of
it, which are necessary to convey the needful ideas on the subject of which you treat, in the most various and most easy manner to the understanding of the hearer: the varia. tion of a phrase in several forms is of admirable use to instruct, it is like turning all sides of the subject to view; and if the learner happens not to take in the ideas in one form of speech, probably another may be successful for that end.
Upon this account I have always thought it an useful manner of instruction, which is used in some Latin schools, which they call variation. Take some plain sentence in the English tongue, and then turn it into many forms in Latin ; as for instance, a wolf let into the sheep-fold will devour the sheep. If you let a wolf into the fold, the sheep will be devoured : the wolf will devout the sheep, if the sheep-fold be left open. If the fold be not left shut carefully, the wolf will devour the sheep: the sheep will be devoured by the wolf, if it find the way into the fold open. There is no defence of the sheep from the wolf unless it be kept out of the fold. A slaughter will be made among the sheep, if the wolf can get into the fold. Thus by turning the active voice of verbs into the passive, and the nominative case of nouns into the accusative, and altering the connexion of short sentences by different adverbs or conjunctions, and by ablative cases with a preposition brought instead of the nominative, or by participles sometimes put instead of the verbs, the negation of and the contrary, instead of the assertion of the thing first proposed, a great variety of forms of speech will be created, which shall express the same
4. Acquire a variety of words, a copia verborum, let your memory be rich in synonymous terms or words expressing the same happy effect with the variation of the same thing : this will not only attain the phrases in the foregoing direction, but it will add a beauty also to your style, by securing you from an appearance of tautology, or
repeating the same words too often, which sometimes may disgust the ear of the learner.
5. Learn the art of shortening your sentences, by dividing a long complicated period into two or three small ones. When others connect and join two or three sentences in one by relative pronouns, as which, whereof, wherein, whereto, &c. and by parentheses frequently inserted, do you rather divide them into distinct periods; or at least, if they must be united, let it be done rather by conjunctions and copulatives, that they may appear like distinct sentences, and give less confusion to the hearer or reader.
I know no method so effectual to learn what I mean, as to take now and then some page of an author, who is guilty of such a long involved parenthetical style, and translate it into plainer English, by dividing the ideas or the sentences asunder, and multiplying the periods, till the language become smooth and easy, and intelligible at first reading.
6. Talk frequently to young and ignorant persons upon subjects which are new and unknown to them, and be diligent to inquire whether they understand you or not ; this will put you upon changing your phrases and forms of speech in a variety, till you can hit their capacity, and convey your ideas into their understanding.
CH A P. III. Of convincing other Persons of any Truth) ; or delivering
them from Errors and Mistakes. When we are arrived at a just and rational establishment in an opinion, whether it relate to religion or common life, we are naturally desirous of bringing all the world into our sentiments; and this proceeds from the affectation and pride of superior influence upon the judgement of our fellowcreatures, much more frequently than it does from a sense of duty or love to truth : so vicious and corrupt is human nature. Yet there is such a thing to be found as an honest
OF CONVINCING OTHER PERSONS, &c.
and sincere delight in propagating truth, arising from a dutiful regard to the honour of our Maker, and an hearty love to mankind. Now if we would be successful in our attempts to convince men of their errors, and to promote the truth, let us divest ourselves, as far as possible, of that pride and affectation which I mentioned before, and seek to acquire that disinterested love to men, and zeal for the truth, which will naturally lead us into the best methods to promote it. And here the following directions may be useful.
I. If you would convince a person of his mistake, choose a proper place, a happy hour, and the fittest concurrent circumstances for this purpose. Do not unseasonably set upon him when he is engaged in the midst of other affairs, but when his soul is at liberty, and at leisure to hear and attend. Accost him not upon that subject when his spirit is ruffled or discomposed with any occurrences of life, and especially when he has heated his passions in the defence of a contrary opinion, but rather seize a golden opportunity, when some occurrences of life may cast a favourable aspect upon the truth of which you would convince him, or which may throw some dark and unhappy colour or consequences upon that error from which you would fain deliver him. There are in life some molissima tempora fundi, some very agreeable moments of addressing a person, which, if rightly managed, may render your attempts more successful, and his conviction easy and pleasant.
II. Make it appear by your whole conduct to the person you would teach, that you mean him well, that your design is not to triumph over his opinion, nor to expose his ignorance, or his incapacity of defending what he asserts. Let him see that it is not your aim to advance your own character as a disputant, nor to set yourself up for an instructor to mankind; but that you love him, and seek his true interest: and not only assure him of this in words, when you are entering on an argument with him, but let the whole of your conduct to him at all times demonstrate your real
friendship for him. Tryth and argument come with particular force from the mouth of one whom we trust and love.
III. The softest and gentlest address to the erroneous, is the best way to convince them of their mistakes. Sometimes it is necessary to represent to your opponent that he is not far off from the truth, and that you would fain draw him a little nearer to it; commend and establish whatever he says that is just and true, as our blessed Saviour treated the young scribe, when he answered well concerning the two great commandments ; “ Thou art not far," says our Lord, “ from the kingdom of heaven," Mark xii. 34. Imi. tate the mildness and conduct of the blessed Jesus.
Come as near to your opponent as you can in all your propositions, and yield to him as much as you dare, in a consistence with truth and justice.
It is a very great and fatal mistake in persons who attempt to convince or reconcile others to their party, when they make the difference appear as wide as possible: this is shocking to any person who is to be convinced, he will choose rather to keep and maintain his own opinions, if he cannot come into yours without renouncing and abandoning every thing that he believed before. Human nature must be flattered a little as well as reasoned with, that so the argument may be able to come at his understanding, which otherwise will be thrust off at a distance. If you charge a man with nonsense and absurdities, with heresy and selfcontradiction, you
take a very wrong step towards convin- . cing him.
Remember that error is not to be rooted out of the mind of man by reproaches and railings, by flashes of wit and biting jests, by loud exclamations or sharp ridicule : long declamations and triumph over our neighbour's mistake will not prove the way to convince him; these are signs either of a bad cause, or of want of arguments or capacity for the defence of a good one.
IV. Set, therefore, a constant watch over yourself, lest you grow warm in dispute before you are aware. The