The Province Of Imagination In Sacred Oratory -- By: Joseph Haven

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 024:93 (Jan 1867)
Article: The Province Of Imagination In Sacred Oratory
Author: Joseph Haven


The Province Of Imagination In Sacred Oratory1

Rev. Joseph Haven

The specific nature and object of this Association seem to prescribe a theme having reference to oratory, and specially to the oratory of the pulpit. I propose to discuss, then, the True Province of Imagination in Sacred Oratory, whether, and how far, this faculty may be of use to the preacher.

As the word, however, is used of late with considerable latitude, it may be well first to define what I mean by imagination.

I understand, then, by this term, not the mere power which the mind possesses of forming images of absent material objects, which is, in reality, only memory in one of its forms, but rather the faculty of the ideal—the power of conceiving and representing under sensible forms the purely ideal. It is that which makes the difference between the copyist and the creator. It is that which lies at the foundation of all true art, whose legitimate office it is to carry us beyond the merely phenomenal, and place us in the presence of the real, the truly beautiful. It is that which in the well-known words of the poet:

“bodies forth
The form of things unknown.”

“To imagine, in this high and true sense of the word,” says Fleming, “is to realize the ideal, to make intelligible truths descend into the forms of sensible nature, to represent the invisible by the visible, the infinite by the finite. In this view of it, imagination may be regarded as the differentia

of man, — the distinctive mark which separates him, a grege mutorum. That the inferior animals have memory, and what has been called passive imagination, is proved by the fact that they dream — and that in this state the sensuous impressions made on them during their waking hours are reproduced. But they have no trace of that higher faculty and function which transcends the sphere of sense, and which out of elements supplied by things seen and temporal can create new objects, the contemplation of which lifts us to the infinite and the unseen, and gives us thoughts which wander through eternity.”2

How far, now, is this faculty of the ideal admissible and of use in the pulpit? Such is the question before us — a question, I need not say, of practical importance to one entering the sacred ministry.

At the first glance one would say, the case is too plain to admit of hesitation. The faculties of the mind are all of use, and were intended by their Creator to be used; nor is there one among them which is not needed by the ora...

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