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Religious and Moral,
ORIGINAL AND SELECTED.
WITH INTRODUCTION BY THE
REV. DONALD MACLEOD, D.D.,
CHAPLAIN TO HER MAJESTY, AND EDITOR OF “GOOD WORDS."
“IF an anecdote comes across my mind which tends to the support of any argument or proposition I am advancing, I hesitate not to adduce it. ... Those to whom any anecdote is old will not be offended if it be well applied; and those to whom it may be new will receive the double pleasure of novelty and illustration.”—Colton.
The employment of happy illustration is one of the chief arts necessary for popular address. Every true orator knows how vain is the attempt to enlist the sympathies of a mixed audience by the mere enunciation of abstract principles or the bare statement of arguments. He may couch his ideas in language of polished elegance, or may weave his reasoning into a chain of irresistible logic; yet he will fail to touch the heart, or fire the enthusiasm of men, except he can crystallise his thoughts into some happy simile which flashes its light on every eye, or can clothe his lessons in some pointed tale which vividly stamps the impression he would convey.
Fable, metaphor, parable, anecdote, are all different methods used for this one great end. The fable, constructed from impossible elements—such as animals conversing, &c.—generally illustrates a prudential maxim adapted for common life. The metaphor, in like manner, draws from the region of things material & representation of things moral or spiritual. The parable, again, in its strict sense, is an imaginative tale—possible in itself, though really fictitious—and told for the purpose of simplifying the highest lessons by a species of dramatic appeal. The parable thus differs from the anecdote, which, though similarly used, yet professes to be a true incident.
Metaphor and parable were the grand instruments used by our Lord for affecting the popular mind of all times and all countries. He never employed fable, although something approaching to anecdote may be found in His allusions to Old
Testament history, where the incidents of the past are taken to illustrate the lessons of the present. But similitude and parable were the constant weapons of His oral teaching. He gathered His similes from every region of nature. The homeless winds and the flashing lightning—the trees and grasses—the soil—the storm—the sea—the employments of men—their very sepulchres -all served His purpose. But He embodied His highest truths in His parables. He incarnated His lessons in these tales, which seem to live and speak with an exhaustless charm. No words can exaggerate the influence which this method of instruction has had. Next to the moving narrative of Christ's own life and death and resurrection, it has served to make Christianity the common property of humanity—to give it currency among all classes, the learned and unlearned, the young and the old. So true is it that
“ When truth in closest words shall fail,
Then truth embodied in a tale ,
Which he may read who binds the sheaf,
Or builds the house, or digs the grave,
And those wild eyes that watch the wave
The object of this Cyclopædia of Anecdote is to assist teachers, whether in the pulpit, or school, or family, by supplying them with illustrative narratives suitable for enforcing their lessons. The anecdotes are professedly authentic, and have been so classified as to make it easy to discover one adapted for any subject. If judiciously used, I have no doubt that this work will prove a great boon to many, especially those who have to address the young or the ignorant—for the true secret of fixing their interests is to objectivise each truth, and display its power in graphic illustration.
" It is good, in discourse of speech and conversation, to vary and intermingle speech of the present occasion with arguments, tales with reasons, asking of questions with telling of opinions, and jest with earnest; for it is a dull thing to tire, and, as we say now, jade anytlıing too far.” So the wise and learned Lord Verulam. And the truth which the ripe judgment of this gifted and accomplished writer long since set down, a varied experience of many years in the editorial conduct of a monthly magazine devoted to tutorial requirements has but too sensibly impressed on the compiler of the present collection. It is indeed a " dull thing to tire” and “jade anything too far.” In the bare setting forth of principles and duties, whether to young or old, this is particularly felt. If mere didactic teaching be continued for any length of time, the listener grows wearied, uninterested, listless. Let the discourse, however, be broken by never so slight an illustration, apologue, or incident, and a directly contrary effect is at once observed. In all times, and among all peoples, this bent of the human mind has been so evident as scarcely to deserve more than passing note. We see it in sacred and profane history antecedent to the coming of our Lord. In the Saviour's discourses the fact is made more patent still; while orator, statesman, and divine, from the days when the Blessed One walked our earth till now, have found in