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anecdote one of the most powerful weapons in their armoury. Chrysostom, Augustine, Latimer, Whitefield, all the great masters of sacred oratory, dealt largely in illustrative narration. Whitefield, the “prince of pulpit orators," as he has been termed, notwithstanding all his marvellous gifts of eloquence, indirectly gave evidence to the truth that, if one would make a powerful or lasting impression on the minds of listeners well or ill educated, he must intermingle “ tales with reasons.” And one explanation of this great man's powerful rhetorical grasp upon the minds of his auditory is to be found in his unusual faculty for setting forth, in the light of apt illustration, the Gospel's saving truths. It is related of him that once, when Lord Chesterfield was present, Whitefield, in the course of his sermon, represented the votary of sin under the figure of a blind beggar led by a dog. The animal had broken the string ; and the blind wanderer, with his staff between both hands, groped his way unconsciously to the brink of a precipice. As he felt along with his staff (declaimed the speaker), it dropped, the depth being too great to send back an echo. The beggar thought it lay on the ground, and, bending forward, took one step to recover it. But his foot trod on vacancy ; poised for a moment, he fell headlong. Chesterfield, who had listened with thrilling interest to Whitefield's graphic description till the scene had grown to reality before his mind, bounded from his seat in evident alarm, and, in a voice of dismay, exclaimed, “He's gone !”.
Treating of the worth of illustration, a theologian of our own times justly says : “Rightly to study them [Lord Macaulay's Essays] is really to learn the secret of their success. If I could do for a Sunday-school what Macaulay has done for the wide world, I should become as effective as he ; and though the rules of his art are not at first apparent, there are rules, and my business is to get at them, and to turn them to my own purposes. You notice, for example, in his paragraphs, he scarcely ever states a truth in an abstract form ; or, if he does, it is but once, and the abstract statement is beset all round with endless illustrations. Everything is concrete, individualised, personal. He never speaks, for example, of the practice of the Puritans in adhering so closely to the Scriptural names, without saying that they called their children Ephraim or Manasseh. In other words, he does not mark the practice abstractedly, but illustrates it by particular cases."
The utility of this mode of enforcing truth may thus be looked upon as a matter beyond controversy. As helps to secure attention, as means to implant or apply a Scripture verity, anecdotes constitute an unfailing auxiliary. Who has not at some time heard a public speaker labouring through a powerful chain of reasoning, working his way, link by link, along an admirable catena of thought, and yet seen the majority of his listeners betraying signs of weariness, if indeed they had not already reached a state more nearly approaching to stupor ? Presently, however, a welcome illustration is introduced, and the effect is magical. The abstract principles are discarded, the living reality is seized.
Our Lord's method of teaching, it need hardly be said, was essentially illustrative. The story of the Pharisee and the Publican, the parable of the Prodigal Son, are but two out of many instances that might be adduced. The Old Testament also contributes a large fund of this figurative enforcement of doctrine. Take, for example, Nathan's reproach of David, couched in the parable of the one little ewe lamb.
But telling a story and giving an illustration are not always one and the same thing. A teacher may have a fund of narrative, and yet be ignorant of the use of illustration. To wield this latter effectively, a man must first grasp a truth which he wishes to declare, and then must be sure that the anecdote chosen will aptly illustrate that truth.
Conscious that a great need existed for a comprehensive book of illustrative anecdote suitable to the exigencies of many who may be called regularly or occasionally to address assemblages of young or old, the writer undertook the task of compiling such a manual, so far as his resources and ability permitted. Books of anecdote abound, it is true, but how many are there which adequately supply the wants of that large class to whom reference has just been made ? With the majority of teachers, to find apt and striking illustrations for those subjects in which all should take the deepest and most abiding interest—illustrations which may help in the formation of true Christian character, and in the avoidance of all that is vicious and hurtful—is too often attended with considerable difficulty. Time and labour are largely sacrificed, and too frequently the product is nil.
It is hoped that the present work may in part serve to fill up an acknowledged void. Although entitled a “Cyclopædia of Illustrative Anecdote," a book of this character, were it vastly larger than it is, could not of course be exhaustive; nevertheless it is put forth in the expectation that, from the number of subjects treated or referred to, a large “circle of knowledge,” a wide range of Christian ethics, will be found embraced within its pages.
A distinctive feature of the present compilation is the principle of “condensation ”—a principle kept steadily in view throughout. In many collections of a similar kind the interpolation of well-meant but often weak or ill-judged reflections or “ applications” swells the bulk of the work without any corresponding advantage, and this to the exclusion of more valuable matter. In “The New Cyclopædia of Anecdote” the scheme indicated by the title has been honestly carried out, and by judiciously
omitting extraneous matter the space at disposal has been vastly increased.
Nor will the teacher and preacher alone profit, it is hoped, by this compendium. Its character and variety will, it is trusted, secure it acceptance in the family circle, and afford also a source of instructive delight to those many readers whose occupations give them scant opportunities for more than an occasional halfhour's perusal of some useful volume.
“The New Cyclopædia " is purely unsectarian. Whatever could help to edify or comfort, admonish or reprove in the records of Christian life and work, whether from the pen of Churchman or Dissenter, or forming part of the life-experience of philosopher or sceptic, soldier or civilian, statesman or divine, has, as far as space and means permitted, helped to enrich its pages.
Without a copious and thoroughly reliable Index a work of the present description must prove all but valueless. It is thought that the one which is placed at the end of the volume will meet every requirement; this, indeed, is the best evidence of the scope and character of the book, and the real test of its utility.
The anecdotes have been collected from a wide and varied field. At the outset the Editor flattered himself that he would have small difficulty in tracing most of the narratives to their original sources. These latter, however, proved to be multitudinous, and the task not only severe, but in most cases futile. He therefore decided to acknowledge his obligations where practicable; very many cases nevertheless occurred in which this was obviously impossible. Still, should any unconscious want of literary courtesy be chargeable against him, he can only ask for indulgence on the ground of the miscellaneous nature of his materials, amidst which exact identification of authorship often became a hopeless task.
The matter of which the volume is composed may be best grouped under three heads : (1) Original and re-written ; (2) modern and little known ; (3) select and familiar. Without the last-named division, a compilation of this kind could be deemed neither complete nor satisfactory. In respect of the others, it would not be proper to treat further than to express a hope that their novelty and freshness may not prove their only recommend. ation. Certain of the subject-heads will be found prefixed to but a small array of anecdotes; this seeming deficiency, however, is fully supplemented under the allied topics. And the general Index has been drawn up with a view to the removal of all difficulty in this regard. It has been the aim of the Editor to combine the old with the new, to reject the trivial and to retain the substantial and the valuable—in fine, to compile a book of anecdote original and select, having for aim the illustration of religion and morality. The worth of his efforts must be judged by others; but that they may be useful in setting forth “the truth” with interest and strength, that they may form “a torch to a hundred parallels,” a candle to many a context, is his earnest prayer; and if this be realised, his chief end will have been achieved—the advancement of His glory who was Himself the Great Teacher.