In these days of the soundbite and the autocue, public speaking is a declining art-form, though it is not extinct and still has its own weight and force.
In New Testament times, unlike today, rhetoric was a highly regarded skill and works were written about it which are still read. Dabney quotes liberally from these, but does not always agree with them. He knew that gospel preaching was not to be 'with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect' (1 Cor. 1:17).
'Evangelical eloquence', for Dabney, was unique. It consisted in 'the soul's virtuous energy exerted through speech' which applied 'the authority of God to the conscience' and formed 'the image of Christ upon the souls of men'.
ROBERT L. DABNEY (1820-98) served as pastor of a Presbyterian Church at Tinkling Springs, Virginia, before becoming Professor, first of Church History, then of Theology, at Union Theological Seminary. Later he taught theology at Austin Seminary, Texas, which he helped to found. His Discussions and Systematic Theology are published by the Trust.
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